The World Health Organization states that it is monitoring a coronavirus variation detected in a small group of French patients, but that there is no reason for concern about its spread.
The B.1.640.2 mutation was first identified in October. It was uploaded to Gisaid (a database of disease variants) on Nov. 4. Experts said that only 20 samples have been sequenced thus far, and one since December.
Abdi Mahmud, a Covid incident manager with the W.H.O., told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that the variant had been on the agency’s radar since November, but added that it did not appear to have spread widely over the past two months.
“That virus has had a lot of chances to pick up,” he said.
The Omicron variant, however, has more than 120,000 sequences in its database. It was uploaded to Gisaid Nov. 23. (The vast majority Omicron case have not been sequenced. According to the W.H.O. it has been found in at least 128 countries and is causing record-breaking case numbers in many parts.
Researchers discovered that the French variant of Omicron contained 46 mutations which were different from the original coronavirus. This raised concerns about the variant. Researchers believe Omicron has a higher number of mutations than the original coronavirus, making it more transmissible.
A research paper published on a preprint server in December but not peer-reviewed states that the B.1.640.2 variant was first discovered in southeastern France by a vaccinated person who recently returned from Cameroon. Researchers found a total of 12 cases in the area and named the variant “I.H.U.,” after the research institute in Marseille that helped identify it.
“It is too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this I.H.U. variant based on these 12 cases,” researchers wrote.
Over the past two decades, many coronavirus variants emerged. The reasons why some have spread more widely than others are not clear. Independent researchers agree that there is little cause to be concerned about I.H.U. variant.
Tom Peacock is a virologist at Imperial College, London. tweeted this week that, so far, “this virus has had a decent chance to cause trouble but never really materialised.”
Source: NY Times