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Covid, a new variant identified in France: experts divided and WHO monitors

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The Omicron variant is continuing to spread around the world, but a new variant of the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus is animating the debate among experts these days. This is the mutation called “B.1.640.2” which, last December 9, the scholars of the Ihu Méditerranée Infection of Marseille explained that they had detected in 12 patients of Forcalquier, a small town of just over 4 thousand inhabitants located in the South of France.

Patient “zero” would have returned from Cameroon

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The variant, the French researchers explained in a post appeared on social media about a month ago, was named “IHU” and was deposited on the international genomic sharing platform Gisaid, which aims to provide quick and open access to data on epidemic and pandemic viruses, with the name of “B.1.640.2”. The so-called “zero” patient of this cluster of cases, as underlined by various transalpine media, would have returned from a trip to Cameroon. What alerted the scientists, it later emerged, is that this new variant of the virus, which descends from the line of another variant, namely the “B.1.640” identified for the first time in Congo and also in France. last September, it seems to have 46 new mutations and 37 immune suppressions, of which 23 are located on the Spike protein. Therefore, more than those identified for the Omicron variant.

The debate between experts and the position of the WHO

To increase attention on this case, in recent days, the publication in pre-print version, therefore not subjected to a peer review, on the “Medrxiv” platform, of the research work of French scholars on this new variant. The discussion among the experts has heated up and they have shown themselves divided in the approach to the mutation and in the definition of the extent of the threat that it can entail. On the one hand due to the very low number of cases identified so far, 12 as mentioned, so it is currently impossible to assess the potential danger. Then because the same variant was identified in the hospital unit for which Professor Didier Raoult was responsible, considered the “father of chloroquine”, who believed he could treat his Covid-positive patients with this product. Under accusation before the Ethics Committee, Raoult is now retired. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO), for the moment, has decided to monitor the situation remotely. With WHO member Maria Van Kerkhove, who via Twitter reported how the “mother” of this sub-variant, as mentioned in “B.1.640”, was classified as a “variant under monitoring (Vum)” by the UN health agency already starting “from November” and that the same WHO boasts a solid system for intercepting and evaluating the evolution of the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

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