IHU COVID VARIANT Symptoms:While the world is still combating the highly mutated Omicron Covid Variant of SARS-CoV-2, scientists in France have now identified a new and more mutated strain that is named IHU. The B.1.640.2 variant, known as ‘IHU’ this was first detected last month in Southern France but is now catching the attention of experts globally. This was identified by researchers at the Marseille-based Mediterranee Infection University Hospital Institute (IHU), it is said to contain 46 mutations. This is heading towards the concern that IHU could be more resistant to the existing vaccines. However, experts have stated that it will be too early to comment on anything regarding the behavior of this strain as far as protection from vaccines is concerned. However, the B.1.640.2 is not yet reported in any other country or labeled a variant under investigation by WHO.
What is ‘IHU’?
Researchers in France have identified a new variant of Covid, apparently of Cameroonian origin, which is temporarily named ‘IHU’. This new variant named B.1.640.2 has infected 12 people in the country. The studies state that it has 46 mutations and 37 deletions. It contains 46 mutations, which makes it even more resistant to vaccines. However, it is not currently spotted in any other countries. The study, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, is suggesting that this strain has more mutations than the Omicron variant.
When was the IHU variant originally discovered?
The notable thing about the IHU variant is that it has been reported just in France, neither spotted in any other country nor labeled a variant under investigation by the World Health Organization (WHO). This is linked to travel to Cameroon in Africa and was first discovered in mid-November. As per a report by Forbes, the first known case of this variant was identified in mid-November 2021.
Till now France has implemented a COVID-19 health pass, which means that to get into cafes, cinemas, restaurants, or board trains, people will be required to show a fresh negative test or vaccination proof.
What are the Symptoms of the IHU variant?
According to the study, the very first case was a vaccinated man who had returned from Cameroon in Africa to France. It is stated that three days after returning from his trip he developed mild respiratory symptoms. He was tested for Covid 19 and the sample turned positive with the presence of the IHU variant. So the initial symptoms were mild respiratory issues only. Respiratory samples collected from seven other positive cases belonging to the same geographical location also stated a similar combination of mutations. These included two adults and five children.
How is the research progressing?
The researchers first identified the IHU variant on the 10th of December and have been analyzing it, trying to gather more information and understand its behavior. So far, 46 mutations are found in it also their tests showed that this strain carries the N501Y mutation which was first seen on the Alpha variant which experts think can make it more infective. As per the research, it is also stated that it carries the E484K mutation, which can mean IHU is going to be more resistant to vaccines.
What precautions do experts suggest?
Experts have advised being highly cautious until more information is gathered about this variant or other previous variants such as Omicron. They state that new variants keep increasing during a pandemic but not every variant is going to cause severe illness. Therefore, it is wise to take the usual precautions and wait for further details before jumping to some conclusions about this variant.
Will vaccines work against it?
At this point in time where there are only a few cases identified, it is too early to say about the effectiveness of the vaccine against this variant. The World Health Organization (WHO) is still examining the IHU strain to provide more clear information regarding this. The WHO monitors the different variants, and when it identifies one that may turn out to be of significant risk, it mentions it as a “variant of concern.” The WHO has said about this variant that it is found in France and hasn’t become much of a risk since it was first found in November as per the investigation. Researchers are stating that it is too early to speculate and reflect on epidemiological, virological, or clinical features of the IHU variant.
Currently, there are many countries experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant which was first found in South Africa and Botswana last year in November. This is a variant of concern and has spread in over 100 countries. The total cases of Omicron variant in India have reached 2,153 which has been detected across 23 states and Union Territories till now. Although the IHU variant is of not much threat right now as per many of the reports, it is better to be aware and take all the necessary precautions.