Covid: a new variant found in South of France

Published by Cécile D. · Published on 6 January 2022 at 09h38
Is a new threat coming our way? A new variant has been identified in a hospital in Marseille this past December. Called “B.1.640.2”, this variant is not of concern so far, scientists claim.

The WHO warns populations against more dangerous variants likely to emerging in the coming year. Could “B.1.649.2” be one of those? This variant has been discovered at the Marseille infectious disease university hospital (IHU), and shared this past December 9 in a tweet. According to the team of French searchers, this Covid-19 mutation “probably” comes from Cameroon. About twenty cases have been reported in France; the transmission of the variant is said to have occurred in the family circle for most cases.

IHU scientists have released a pre-study that still has to be peer-reviewed. Pharmacy doctor and virologist at the Marseille IHU Philippe Corson was invited on BFMTV and describes “B.1.640.2” as a new variant “carrying 46 mutations and 37 deletions, including 23 located on the spike protein”. The La Dépêche newspaper reminds as a comparison Omicron has 50 mutations, including 32 on the spike protein: it is what enables it to penetrate our bodies so easily.

This new variant is still very mysterious, and we do not know a lot about it, so it is hard to estimate its dangerous nature. Yet, scientists remind mutations of the viruses are normal and common: this new variant may not be a source of problems. Yet, to avoid bad surprises, the WHO has ranked this mutation in the “variants under surveillance” list. As for Santé Publique France, they list it as a “variant under rolling review”.

The French organization considers that given the current data this variant is no threat, although it is important to keep watching it. “Epidemiologic data show the lack of major diffusion or progression in France or abroad. [Furthermore], there are no virological, epidemiological or clinical elements ruling for a significative impact on the public health”, Santé Publique France explains in the report.

As some Marseille searchers say, it is too early to assess the dangerous nature of this variant: the number of cases is not high enough to enable a solid study, and we do not know how “B.1.640.2” reacts to vaccines.

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