Highly Mutated New Strain of Coronavirus `IHU’ Stirs Fear Beyond Omicron

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of concern continues to startle the world with its high infection transmissibility rates affecting large numbers of people, fears surge up with yet another highly mutated new variant.

now making its way to several other countries. This new variant is found to have nearly 46


Experts state that the B.1.640 variant was not new but has existed for nearly three months. However, it was brought into the discussion only after a week-old study at the Méditerranée Infection in Marseille, part of France’s Instituts hospitalo-universitaires (IHU, or University Hospital Institutes).

Mutation Capacity of New Variant

The strain consists of an E484K mutation, making the variant more resistant to vaccines. In addition to this, the variant also holds N501Y mutation that was first encountered in the Alpha variant, making it more transmissible, as per a paper posted on medRxiv.

“The mutations have caused “Fourteen amino acid substitutions, and 9 amino acid deletions—which are located in the spike protein. There are scores of new variants discovered all the time, but it does not necessarily mean they will be more dangerous. What makes a variant more well-known and dangerous is its ability to multiply because of the number of mutations it has concerning the original virus,”
says renowned epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding, on Twitter.

IHU Lineage

The study data reported that the detection of a new variant occurred in November last year. Nearly 12 cases have been documented near Marseilles in southeastern France, among which the first case had mild respiratory symptoms the day before diagnosis with a history to travel to the African country Cameroon.

The case was later tested positive for B.1.640.2 variant. The team also stated that the variant found in these people was ‘very similar to the one they had found earlier and named IHU.’

However, as per global databases, the B.1.640 variant was discovered first on January 1, 2021. Hence, the new variant found (in November) by the French researchers has been further classified as a “sub-lineage B.1.640.2.”

Is the IHU Variant New?

Nearly 400 infections from B.1.640 lineage have been identified in at least 19 countries so far as per the outbreak.info — a website for tracking different variants and their prevalences in genome sequencing databases.

Moreover, India contributes to one among these sequences — out of the 89,763 sequences reported from India in the global databases. France contributes to the highest numbers of these sequences, with almost 287 confirmed cases to date.

Prevalence of New Variant

As the new IHU variant has also been reported, Germany contributes to almost 17 cases, and the United Kingdom reports 16 cases. The variant is, however, more prevalent in Congo where 39 out of the 454 genome sequences belong to B.1.640 lineage so far.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had already classified B.1.640 as a “variant under monitoring (VUM)” in November, thereby urging for an entry-level categorization under observation.

B.1.640 Lineage — Not an Alarming Concern

Although the new lineage B.1.640 has engrossed anticipation and fear among researchers and the public globally due to its mutation capacity, it rather has a spread than Omicron.

The website outbreak.info states that the last case of the variant was detected on December 25, 2021, with no more new cases being detected so far in the global databases.

“Nothing to panic or worry too much (about) at the moment, given the evidence. But clearly, something that needs to be watched closely for the coming weeks,” says Vinod Scaria, a scientist at Delhi-based Institute of Genomic and Integrative Biology.

Source: Medindia

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