COVID: Has a new variant been detected in France?

Researchers have identified another COVID variant that has infected 12 people in France.

IHU variant
© Viktor Forgacs/UNSPLASH
IHU variant

The Omicron variant was detected only a little over a month ago, and scientists have revealed that there is another new strain that is apparently ‘more infectious and vaccine-resistant’ than the original coronavirus. Their research found that the variant had a whopping 46 mutations, making it almost as complex as the Omicron variant, which has 50 mutations overall.

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An emerging strain

On 9 December, IHU Méditerranée Infection announced on Twitter that there was an up-and-coming mutation that was infecting people in a commune called Forcalquier, situated near the French city of Marseille. The variant was named IHU, after the institution, and also given the code B.1.640.2. Professor Philippe Colson, leader of the team of researchers who discovered the strain, said (as quoted by Mail Online):

We indeed have several cases of this new variant in the Marseille geographical area.
We named it 'variant IHU.' Two new genomes have just been submitted.


The study, which was supported by the French government, disclosed that 12 people had been infected so far and that the first case was linked to travel in Cameroon. So far, the variant has been observed in other parts of France and the team has not revealed if more infections has been recorded.

Their research was published in the journal medRxiv on 29 December, but the authors mention that it has to still be peer-reviewed. They warned:

It reports new medical research that has yet to be evaluated and so should not be used to guide clinical practice.

They also stated that their findings highlighted the 'unpredictability of the virus and, furthermore, the threat of different mutations coming into the country through international travel. They wrote:

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.
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