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IHU: What to know about the newer variant that WHO is monitoring

A worker at the Institute of Infection University Hospital Méditerranée (IHU) in Marseille, France, is seen preparing samples for genomic study of a COVID-19 variant in early 2021. Researchers at the nearby institute here published a study on a newer variant, B. 1.640.2, which is believed to have infected 12 people in France. (Christophe Simon/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – The latest COVID variant isn’t exactly new, according to World Health Organization officials.

In recent days, reports have emerged of at least a dozen people being infected with another SARS-CoV-2 variant – B.1.640.2 – in the south of France, although the WHO says it is following track variant B.1.640 (of which there are two subclasses, B.1.640.1 and B.1.640.2, according to a WHO official) since November.

WHO does not currently consider B.1.640 a variant of concern (VOC) or a variant of interest (VOI). Rather, B.1.640 is designated as variant is being monitored (VUM), meaning it has the potential to pose a risk in the future, but further monitoring, evidence, and research are needed.

Meanwhile, variant B.1.640.2 has been detected in at least 12 people living in “the same geographical area in southeastern France.” base on the research from the Institute of Infectious University Hospitals of Méditerranée (IHU).

The study’s authors, which have not been reviewed, also said the variant – which they named the IHU variant after their medical institute – is believed to have originated in Cameroon and was visited by a tourist bring back to France.

It is not clear where the other B.1.640.2 was discovered.

Transparent a United Nations briefing in Geneva this week, WHO’s Dr. Abdi Mahamud seems to suggest that B.1.640 is not of immediate public concern.

“Yes, we are watching and we know [of] it,” said Mahamud in response to a question from the press. “But right now, that virus has a lot of room to infect.”

While this variation has yet to demonstrate the criteria for VOCs or VOIs according to WHO standards, that does not mean it will necessarily remain so. As noted by WHO officials, “the impact of these [VUM] Variations can develop rapidly. For example, the omicron variant was considered VUM on November 24 before being upgraded to a VOC on November 26.

If B.1.640 is reclassified as VOC or VOI in the future, WHO will assign an official label or name to the variant.

As of Wednesday, B.1.640 is now listed as VUM by WHO, along with B.1.1.318 and C.1.2. Variants of interest (VOIs) currently include lambda and mu, while variants of interest (VOC) include Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron variants.

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https://kfor.com/news/coronavirus/ihu-what-to-know-about-the-newer-variant-who-is-monitoring/ IHU: What to know about the newer variant that WHO is monitoring

JACLYN DIAZ

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