French scientists say they have detected a new covid variant in France and they’ve linked it to travel to Cameroon. It carries 46 mutations that could make it more vaccine-resistant and infectious than the original coronavirus.
Twelve cases of the new variant have been reported so far near Marseille, the second-largest city in France, with the first case linked to Cameroon, Daily Mail reported.
The omicron variant is the dominant strain of covid in France, where it makes up more than 60 percent of cases.
The new variant was discovered at the IHU Mediterranee Infection, a program backed by the French government, on Dec. 10 but it has not spread fast since then, scientists said. There are few signs that it is outpacing the dominant strain. The discovery was announced on Twitter.
The new strain has not been detected in other countries or labeled a variant under investigation by the World Health Organization.
“We named it ‘variant IHU’,” said Professor Philippe Colson, head of the unit that discovered the strain. “Two new genomes have just been submitted.”
A distant relative of omicron, the strain carries the E484K mutation, which is thought to make it more resistant to vaccines, tests show. It also has the N501Y mutation which experts said can make it more transmissible.
Scientists say it likely evolved from an older virus.
“These observations show once again the unpredictability of the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants and their introduction from abroad,” scientists said in a paper posted on medRxiv, a Yale University-owned internet site that distributes unpublished papers on medicine, clinical research, and related health sciences.
“And they exemplify the difficulty to control such introduction and subsequent spread,” scientists added.
The paper has not yet been peer-reviewed, Express reported.
The French scientists said they had identified 46 mutations in the variant. Scores of new variants are discovered all the time, but they are not necessarily more dangerous than the delta or alpha variants.
What makes a variant dangerous is its ability to multiply due to the number of mutations it has in relation to the original virus. This is when it becomes a “variant of concern” like omicron, according to Express.
Photo: People wait during an observation period after having received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, in a vaccination center, in Nantes, western France, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. France has vaccinated 77% of its population but more than 4 million adults remain unvaccinated. (AP Photo/Jeremias Gonzales)
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