What is IHU Covid Variant? Is it More Infectious than Omicron?

A new variant of the deadly Covid-19 virus, which has been labelled as IHU strain, has been detected by scientists in France.

The variant is said to trace its origins in Cameroon, according to studies in France. The strain is known as IHU because it carries substitutions of the N501Y and E484K in spike proteins. The IHU Covid variant was discovered near the French port city of Marseilles, according to media reports.

“The mutation set and phylogenetic position of the genomes obtained here indicate based on our previous definition a new variant we named IHU,” media reports, quoting the authors of the study said.

“These data are 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 added.

However, the new strain, also known as the B.1.640.2 has not been detected outside France and is not under investigation by the World Health Organization (WHO).

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“Fourteen amino acid substitutions, including N501Y and E484K, and 9 deletions are located in the spike protein. This genotype pattern led to create a new Pangolin lineage named B.1.640.2, which is a phylogenetic sister group to the old B.1.640 lineage renamed B.1.640.1,” the research paper said.

Media reports state that epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding posted a Twitter thread saying that new variants keep emerging but it does not necessarily mean they will be more dangerous.

“What makes a variant more well-known and dangerous is its ability to multiply because of the number of mutations it has in relation to the original virus,” he said.

“This is when it becomes a “variant of concern” – like Omicron, which is more contagious and more past immunity evasive. It remains to be seen in which category this new variant will fall,” the doctor further said.

The Omicron variant was detected in a sample taken from South Africa on November 24 last year. Since then, it has spread to more than 100 countries. In India, it has infected nearly thousands of people.

Meanwhile, India launched its own marathon drive to vaccinate teenagers between the ages of 15 years and 18 years from Monday, January 3, 2022. The drive is expected to cover over 75 million youngsters in the age group of 15 and 18 years, according to estimates released by the Indian government recently.

Over four million teenagers had already taken the first jab of the vaccine across India, when the vaccination drive began on January 3, 2022, according to media reports.

To ensure that teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 years can register for the Covid-19 jab, the Indian government is allowing the use of school ID cards instead of other, government-issued documents. Teenagers are being administered the Covaxin vaccine under the inoculation drive in India.

FAQs Related to IHU Covid Variant

Q: What is the IHU variant of Covid-19 virus?

A: The IHU is a variant of the Covid-19 virus that was detected recently by scientists in Marseilles city in France. The virus has not been detected anywhere else in the world. It is believed to have originated in Cameroon and French scientists are studying this new strain called IHU to find its implications on human health.

Q: How dangerous is the IHU variant of Covid-19 virus?

A: According to media reports, the IHU variant can spread more rapidly than Omicron. However, more details aren’t available on the severity of its infection. Therefore, the IHU variant isn’t something of immediate concern right now. The World Health Organization is not studying the IHU variant, meaning that it might not be dangerous since it won’t spread rapidly worldwide, like the Omicron variant.

Q: Are vaccines enough to protect myself from IHU variant of Covid-19

A: As I said earlier, there’s no data to suggest that IHU variant of Covid-19 will become a major cause of concern. The virus was isolated only in France and no other country has reported its existence in humans so far. Therefore, it is too early to predict whether the IHU strain really poses a global threat to humans or is a one-off mutation of Covid-19. The strain has origins in Cameroon but hasn’t spread anywhere else, till now. Therefore, we can’t state whether existing vaccines, regardless of whether you’ve taken two doses or three, are sufficient to defend yourself against the IHU strain.

Q: Is IHU variant more deadly than the Omicron strain?

A: Scientists studying the IHU variant claim that it could spread more faster than Omicron. However, the fact that there’re no infections outside Cameroon and only people traveling from that country to France carried IHU indicates that it’s spread could be limited to a specific geographical area only. Scientists have also said that little data about the IHU virus is available at the moment to cause any widespread public alarm.

Q: Is it likely that the IHU variant of Covid-19 will come to India too?

A: Viruses mutate all the time and become new strains. There is no indication that IHU would reach India. As we’re all aware, India has restricted international air and sea travel and only those with proper vaccination and certificates are being allowed in the country. Therefore, there’re small chances that IHU will arrive in India. The Indian government and its agencies also closely monitor such situations and take all the necessary precautions to defend Indian citizens against such viruses.

Q: Who is at risk of getting infected by the new IHU strain of Covid-19?

A: The IHU variant of Covid-19 has origins in Cameroon and was detected only in France. There’re no reports of the IHU strain being detected elsewhere in the world such as other European countries and USA, among other places. Therefore, at the moment there’re few chances that the IHU strain will actually arrive in India to infect people. Few details of the new variant are known and scientists are saying there’s no reason to worry immediately. Therefore, there’s not much possibility of you getting infected by the IHU variant.

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