IHU, another nasty virus variant threatens mankind - GulfToday

IHU another nasty virus variant threatens mankind

It is too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of the IHU variant.

It is too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of the IHU variant.

Just when we thought that the Omicron crisis was the last of its kind, in comes the news like a sledgehammer: the discovery of a new COVID variant in France, temporarily called ‘IHU’.

The new variant from the lineage named B.1.640.2 is believed to have infected 12 people in the country, according to a yet-to-be peer-reviewed study supported by the French Government. It has 46 mutations.

“For twelve SARS-CoV-positive patients living in the same geographical area of southeastern France, qPCR testing that screen for variant-associated mutations showed an atypical combination,” said Philippe Colson, from IHU Mediterranee Infection, Marseille, France.

However, it is too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this IHU variant based on these 12 cases.

According to the study, the index case (the first patient) was a vaccinated adult who had returned to France from a trip to Cameroon, in central Africa. Three days after returning he developed mild respiratory symptoms. His nasopharyngeal sample collected mid-November 2021, “revealed an atypical combination that did not correspond to the pattern of the Delta variant involved in almost all SARS-CoV-2 infections at that time”, and later to Omicron as well, Colson said.

Respiratory samples collected from seven other SARS-CoV-2-positive patients living in the same geographical area exhibited the same combination of mutations screened by qPCR. They were two adults and five children (below 15 years of age).

The respiratory samples from these eight patients were sent to university hospital institute Mediterranee Infection for SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing as recommended by French health authorities. As scientists probe the gravity of the situation caused by the new variant, the Omicron, “mild” as it may be, is on a demolition spree, damaging immune systems of people in some countries.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday that France was ready to deploy a fourth COVID-19 vaccination or second booster shot as soon as health authorities gave their green light to such a move.

On Wednesday, France registered a record of more than 332,252 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, and a further 246 COVID deaths in hospitals.

With Europe’s highest number of confirmed daily virus cases, after weeks of record-breaking figures, France is in an increasingly critical position.

The statistics are alarming, truly. More than 20,000 people are hospitalised with the virus in France, a number that has been rising steadily for weeks but not as sharply as the infection rates.

Britain, which is also seeing a big surge, reported a record 218,274 daily cases on Tuesday. Germany reported 30,561 cases on Tuesday.

It is sad that the worst-case scenario should affect the best –developed nations in the world: UK and France. The problem is that most virus patients in ICUs are not vaccinated, though 77% of the population has had at least two doses.

The United Kingdom reported 218,724 new COVID cases on Tuesday, a new record for the number of cases reported on a single day. But this did not dampen PM Boris Johnson’s resolve.

He said he was sticking to the “Plan B” measures introduced in England last month, which included the wearing of face coverings on buses and trains and in shops but did not restrict gatherings or close businesses.

The infection cases in America are extremely alarming too, they have hit a record 1 million a day. This is a tally nearly double the country’s peak of 505,109 hit just a week ago as the highly contagious Omicron variant shows no sign of slowing.

The number of hospitalised COVID-19 patients has risen nearly 50% in the last week and now exceeds 100,000, the first time that threshold has been reached since the winter surge a year ago.

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