A New COVID Variant With 46 Mutations Has Experts Worried

Scientists in France have identified yet another potentially worrying new variant of COVID-19 as omicron continues to bring a spike in cases globally.

The Independent reports the new B.1.640.2 variant named “IHU” has already infected 12 individuals in southeastern France, with each case linking to a person who had previously traveled to Cameroon, West Africa, researchers confirmed in a paper published on medRxiv.org.

Experts did, however, quickly clarify that the new variant may not necessarily be as infectious as omicron or other previous COVID strains.

The authors did confirm that “46 mutations” were found among IHU, which has not yet been spotted in other countries or labelled a variant under investigation by the World Health Organization as of Tuesday (January 4).

Scientists confirmed that genomes were obtained by next-generation sequencing and that the person who was identified to have the IHU variant was fully vaccinated and tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from a three-day trip to Cameroon.

“Subsequent detection by qPCR of three mutations in the spike gene to screen for variants, as systematically performed in France in case of SARS-CoV-2 positivity, revealed an atypical combination with L452R-negativity, E484K-positivity, and E484Q-negativity (Pentaplex assay, ID Solution, France) that did not correspond to the pattern of the Delta variant involved in almost all SARS-CoV-2 infections at that time,” the authors wrote.

The authors said the potential emergence of a new variant “genomic surveillance” as their findings — like previous strains of COVID — once again showed the “unpredictability of the emergence of new SARS-Cov-2 variants.”

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