NEW YORK - A new COVID-19 variant has been detected in France. The variant has been named IHU. Here is what you need to know about it.
IHU is also known as B.1.640.2. The new variant was named after the Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire research center.
It was found to have infected 12 people living in an area near Marseilles, a port city in southern France.
The first case was found in a vaccinated man who had returned to France from a trip to Cameroon in Africa.
Respiratory samples later collected from seven other SARS-CoV-2-positive patients living in the same geographical area exhibited the same combination of mutations. They were two adults and five children.
Additional respiratory samples collected from four other SARS-CoV-2 positive patients were later also identified as containing the IHU variant.
Health officials found that IHU has 46 mutations. That is even more mutations than were found in omicron.
What are the symptoms of the new IHU variant? It appears that the new variant has similar symptoms as other COVID-19 strains.
The IHU variant has not yet been found in any other countries besides France.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has not labeled the new strain a variant under investigation. It has not put any strains on the list since it added omicron in November 2021.
The WHO's Dr. Abdi Mahamud said that the IHU variant "has been on our radar" during a news conference this week but says it hasn't been much of a threat.
The WHO considers variants of concern ones that increase in transmissibility or increase in virulence or decrease vaccine effectiveness.
Experts say new variants keep emerging but it does not mean they will be more dangerous than previous strains.
According to a paper posted on medRxiv, the IHU strain carries the E484K and N501Y mutations which can make it more resistant to vaccines and can make it more transmissible, but it is unclear if either of those things will happen.