What is known about the IHU variant detected in France
The Institute of Infectious Diseases of the University Hospital of Marseille confirmed that it had been detected a new variant of the coronavirus in several patients in the French town of Folcalquier, located about 100 kilometers from Marseille.
The strain is scientifically known as B.1.640.2. but popularly it has been baptized as IHU, which is the acronym of the French hospital where this new variant was identified for the first time.
What does the WHO say about the IHU variant?
Health authorities around the world are "watching very closely" the appearance of this variant, especially since the extent that it could have among the population is unknown.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is leading the investigations to determine if this variant could really become a threat and what measures should be taken in this regard.
Although the appearance of this new variant has now been confirmed, the truth is that scientists from the international health organization had already controlled it, at least since November, as confirmed by Abdi Mahamud, WHO incident manager, in a Press conference.
Due to the fact that the scientific investigations are in a very preliminary phase, the medical organization has not classified this variant as "worrisome", something that it has done with others that have appeared previously, such as the omicron.
Is it worrying?
In fact, this variant is a sublineage of B.1.640 that was first detected in the Republic of Congo and later in some patients in France. This variant, B.1.640, was classified by the WHO as a "variant under surveillance" since November 22. However, experts clarify that the strain is circulating in the country at "very low levels", implying that there should be no scaremongering in this regard.
The finding was initially published in the scientific journal MedRxiv and the article spoke of "46 mutations and 37 deletions."
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What is known about the 12 infected patients?
What is known is that, so far, this strain has been identified in 12 patients in France and that the first case could have occurred in a patient who recently traveled to Cameroon, but this has not been confirmed. Nor have they revealed the status of the infected and if any of them presented a severe or extremely serious condition.
"For twelve patients with SARS-CoV-positive who lived in the same geographical area of southeastern France, the PCR tests that detect mutations associated with variants showed an atypical combination", reveals the scientific document prepared by the ten experts who discovered the variant .
Researchers highlight the "unpredictability" of the variants
The research, whose authors warn that it is not yet conclusive, also highlights the "unpredictability" of COVID-19 mutations, so it is necessary to remain vigilant in the presence of new variants.
"These data are another example of the unpredictability of the appearance of variants of SARS-CoV-2 and their introduction in a specific geographic area from abroad," pointed out the experts who signed the document.
Who is the director of the hospital where the variant was found?
Didier Raoult, director of the Marseille hospital (IHU) where this new variant was first detected, has led the scientific investigation. The Voice of america you have tried unsuccessfully to contact him through various channels.
Some French media point out that the expert received a warning from the Order of Physicians of New Aquitaine in December, considering that Raoult had violated article 12 of the medical code of ethics.
The man had promoted hydroxychloroquine as a method to combat the coronavirus without having scientifically “confirmed data” to support his claims.
"Professor Raoult, through various media and especially his YouTube channel, gave information that was not based on confirmed data, without showing the necessary prudence," the office said in a statement.
"All viruses tend to mutate"
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