“IHU” coronavirus variant in France “on our radar” however not a risk, World Health Organization says

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Paris — New coronavirus variants are detected each week. Most of them pop up after which rapidly disappear, others persist quietly however by no means develop into widespread, and just some rise to the ranks of “Variants of Concern,” as designated by the World Health Organization.

So, it is uncommon {that a} variant tentatively recognized in France greater than a month in the past, which did not unfold past a small preliminary cluster of circumstances, ought to be seizing so many headlines this week.

Perhaps it is as a result of the researchers who regarded into it determined final week to dub it “IHU” after the college hospital the place it was recognized, the IHU Méditerranée Infection, in Marseille, southeast France, which is led by the controversial scientist Dr. Didier Raoult, who made hydroxychloroquine a family identify. 

Social media customers pounced on the potential homonym with “I hate you” — and the variant registered as B.1.640.2 abruptly garnered headlines. As the world fixates on new strains of the virus, the stories have been trending on-line this week.

MARSEILLE-HEALTH-VIRUS
A well being employee prepares samples to check the genome of a variant of COVID-19 on the University Hospital Institute for Infectious Diseases (IHU) in Marseille, on January 11, 2021.

CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP by way of Getty Images


The variant, which has 46 mutations and 36 deletions that make it genetically distinct from the unique coronavirus found in China, was first recognized within the Marseille area in November in an individual who had just lately returned from Cameroon in central Africa. Eleven extra folks, all linked to that traveler, have been contaminated with what the IHU recorded as a brand new variant, because it tweeted on December 9.

That was the identical week that the primary case of the Omicron variant was formally recognized in France. Omicron now accounts for half of all new coronavirus infections in France — fueling a surge that noticed the nation report a file 335,000 new each day circumstances on Wednesday. The “IHU” variant, however, has not been detected in anybody because the preliminary 12 folks.

The World Health Organization this week downplayed issues over the variant. Abdi Mahamud, a WHO incident supervisor on COVID, informed a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday that it “has been on our radar,” however famous that it hadn’t proved a lot of a risk. 

The researchers who dubbed the variant “IHU” pre-published a analysis paper on December 29, saying it was “another example of the unpredictability of the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants, and of their introduction in a given geographical area from abroad.”

They concluded, nevertheless, that it was “too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this IHU variant.”

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