With the world struggling to cope with the surge in new COVID-19 infections, courtesy of the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus, scientists have found another variant of the coronavirus that is believed to be even more transmissible than omicron.
Named IHU, the new variant of the coronavirus was first discovered by scientists from an infectious diseases research institute in France, the IHU Mediterranee Infection. Scientists first discovered the variant on December 10, 2021, and at the time of writing, there were 12 active IHU cases in Marseilles, France. However, scientists have said that all 12 cases are linked to travel to Cameroon in Africa, and there is a possibility that the first cases originated there.
Despite the discovery of IHU in France, it has not been detected in any other country as of now, and has not been officially designated for investigation as a variant of the coronavirus by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The discovery comes at a time when the omicron variant of the coronavirus is driving a surge in new COVID-19 infections around the world. Omicron, since its discovery in November 2021 in South Africa, is quickly establishing itself as the dominant variant across the world.
In France, for instance, omicron accounts for 62.4% of cases according to public health officials, and average daily case counts have crossed 160,000, with peaks over 200,000.
The US, meanwhile, is experiencing a massive spike in new COVID-19 infections because of the omicron variant, and the country reported over 1 million new cases on Monday.
Given the situation around the world and the mounting pressure on healthcare systems, a new wave of infections driven by IHU could signal disaster and overwhelm healthcare systems.
However, experts have said that the discovery of new variants does not necessarily mean that they will be more dangerous than extant variants, and the situation with IHU is being monitored for indications of serious threat.