New COVID variant B.1.640.2 or IHU identified in France: What is it?

January 5, 2022
1M new cases reported Monday; omicron now 95% of cases: COVID updates


As the highly transmissible omicron variant replaces delta as the dominant strain of the coronavirus, another new variant has sparked some interest but current data indicates it’s not a cause for concern.

The variant, called B.1.640.2, was dubbed the “IHU variant” by researchers at the Méditerranée Infection University Hospital Institute (IHU) in Marseilles, who first identified the variant in France in November, according to Forbes magazine.

According to a December study that is not yet peer-reviewed, the researchers confirmed 12 patients tested positive for the variant, which contained mutations that also appeared in other fast-spreading variants.

While the new variant was discovered about the same time as omicron, the B.1.640.2 variant hasn’t been detected anywhere outside the southern Alps region of France, TIME magazine reported.

Where do variants come from?:Scientists suggest the omicron variant evolved in one person

How omicron is shaping the pandemic:US coronavirus cases surge past previous records

The World Health Organization says the B.1.640.2 variant “has been on our radar,” but it’s not considered a variant of interest or concern. 

“That virus had a lot of chances to pick up,” said Abdi Mahamud, incident manager for the WHO’s COVID-19 Incident Management Support Team, at a news briefing in Geneva Tuesday.

Health experts say they expect more variants to appear as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, but not will gain traction. 

“I would expect additional variants to arise that are related to omicron in some ways but different in others,” Julie Swann, professor at North Carolina State University who studies pandemic modeling and health systems. “It remains to be seen what that would mean for real-world spread.”

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT. 

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.


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