WHO not concerned about new variant in France

Researchers at IHU Mediterranee Infection in France have detected a new variant of the coronavirus, according to early research published Dec. 29 on MedRxiv.

The variant, B.1.640.2, is dubbed IHU after the facility where it was discovered on Dec. 10. 

Researchers say it contains 46 mutations, even more than omicron. The variant carries the N501Y mutation, seen in the alpha variant, which experts believe can make it more transmissible. Research has also shown the variant carries the E484K mutation, which could mean it may be more resistant to vaccines. 

Experts were quick to clarify the discovery of a new variant does not necessarily indicate IHU will be as infectious as other variants, including omicron, The Independent reported.

The variant has been identified in 12 individuals thus far near Marseille, France, according to The Independent. The first case was linked to a fully vaccinated individual returning from a three-day trip to the African country of Cameroon.

It has not been spotted in any other countries. An official from the World Health Organization said the variant has been on the agency's radar since November, but has not been a cause for concern given its spread over the last two months, The New York Times reported Jan. 5 

The research has not yet been peer reviewed.

Editor's note: This piece was updated Jan. 5 to include new comments from the World Health Organization.


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