French scientists have found another Covid-19 variant in France. According to scientists, the mutant strain has 46 mutations that are believed to make it both more vaccine-resistant and infectious than the original virus.
Around 12 cases have been spotted near Marseille so far, with the first linked to travel to the African country Cameroon. But the scientist also says that there is a slight sign that it is
But there is little sign that it is outcompeting the dominant Omicron variant, which now takes the total toll of cases to more than 60 per cent in France. The strain was discovered by academics based at the IHU Mediterranean Infection on December 10 but has not spread speedily since.
In other countries, it is yet to be spotted or labelled a variant under investigation by the World Health Organization.
Professor Philippe Colson, who heads up the unit that discovered the strain, said: ‘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.’
This new variant has been named B.1.640.2 and its discovery was announced in a paper posted on medRxiv. In an academic journal, this has not been published yet.
According to scientists, the lineage is hereditarily different to B.1.640, which is thought to have emerged in the Democratic Republic of Congo in September.
Tests show the strain transmits the E484K mutation that is believed to make it more impervious to vaccines. It also has the N501Y mutation that was first seen on the Alpha variant and according to the experts, it can make it more transmissible.
It is believed to be a distant relative of the Omicron variant, which scientists say has likely evolved from an older virus.
The scientists say in their paper: ‘These observations show once again the unpredictability of the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants and their introduction from abroad.’
‘And they exemplify the difficulty to control such introduction and subsequent spread.’
France has good observation for Covid variants, meaning any new mutant strains are quickly picked up.
In Britain, around three in ten cases are checked for variants.
Omicron — or B.1.1.529 — carries around 50 mutations and appears to be better at infecting people who already have a level of immunity.
But a growing body of research proves it is also much less likely to trigger the severe disease.