The new 'IHU' variant of the coronavirus, which was discovered in France late last month, is not spreading far enough to be one of major concerns, a new study has found. Though the investigation in the behaviour of the new strain is still in a very early stage, researchers have found very little to raise concern.
The study, yet to be peer-reviewed, has been published on MedRxiv. In it, the researchers said that "it is still early to speculate on the IHU variants as the number of cases is extremely low".
Earlier this week, then World Health Organization (WHO) also said that the 'IHU' variant has not become much of a threat as of now.
The new variant was first identified in November and has been on WHO's radar since then. It has so far not been labelled as a 'variant under investigation' by the global health body.
The latest study has, however, advised keeping an eye on the 'IHU' variant.
For now, the world's focus is on the Omicron variant, which is leading to a surge in the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infection across the world. The United States and Europe are badly hit by the Omicron strain.
The IHU variant has 46 mutations and 37 deletions in its genetic code, more than Omicron. Many of these affect the spike protein.
The variant is a sub-lineage of the B.1.640 and its discovery was announced by researchers from Méditerranée Infection in Marseille, part of France's Instituts hospitalo-universitaires (IHU, or University Hospital Institutes) - hence the name. It has been classified as B.1.640.2.
The IHU variant was discovered in November, in a sample of a man who visited Cameroon in Africa on a three-day trip.
He began experiencing respiratory symptoms and was tested for Covid-19. The sample returned positive, with the presence of the B.1.640.2 variant.
A localised spread of the infection was reported in France and attributed to the IHU strain, Vinod Scaria, a scientist of Delhi's Institute of Genomic and Integrative Biology, said on Twitter that there is no proof of that.
The B.1.640, meanwhile, is not new. According to outbreak.info, it was first detected on January 1, 2021, and 400 infections have been identified till now.