New Covid variant in France not a worry right now: Experts

By Express News Service

BENGALURU: The world grapples with a massive uptick in novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases caused by Omicron, the new variant of concern, Southern France has reported another variant and experts argue that though it’s not a worry at the moment, it’s something that needs to be watched closely.

“It is very obvious by now that new mutations will continue to happen and there will be many variants of Omicron or any other variant which can come. Delta has 108 sub-variants. They keep on churning. It’s too early to say anything on this variant,” said Dr Vishal Rao, member, Committee for Covid-19 whole-genome sequencing.

According to several reports, in South France at least 12 people have tested positive for the new variant, called IHU, that purportedly has “atypical combination”. Dr Vishal said initial claims from French scientists are that the IHU variant is said to have 46 mutations and 37 deletions. Taking to Twitter, Dr Vinod Scaria, senior scientist at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, says, “A lot of discussion about B.1.640.2 reported from Southern France had been on the WHO watchlist for quite some time (Nov 2021). Index case seemingly was from Cameroon (doesn’t mean it originated there) Many of the mutations are shared with VoCs.” 

However, Dr Scaria says though it predates Omicron, sequences have not grown rapidly. “We don’t know whether the increasing cases in South France are associated with the new variant. There is nothing to panic or worry too much at the moment, given the evidence. But clearly something that needs to be watched closely in the coming weeks.”

Interestingly, Bengaluru’s Strand Life Sciences, a bioinformatics company has created a Covid Mutation Miner tool that makes it possible by indexing CORD-19 — a free resource of more than 280,000 scholarly articles about the novel coronavirus.