Since its arrival in late November, the unquestionably mild Omicron strain of Covid-19 has sent daily new infections to record highs, while hospital admissions - and particularly deaths - have remained relatively low compared to the giant new denominator.
But it was only a matter of time before a new variant hit the scene. Like omicron, it appears this new variant originated in an African country - Cameroon - after being isolated by scientists in southern France.
The first official case is reported to be a traveler from Cameroon, and it's now spreading in Southern France where at least 12 people have been infected with it, according to research published on medrvix.
To be clear - we know virtually nothing about this new strain aside from the fact that it exists. Nothing on severity, transmissibility, 'long covid', etc. We do know it's highly mutated from the original strain, much like Omicron. It's also too soon to tell if it will be classified as a 'variant of concern.'
In the medrvix preprint, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, experts from a French government-backed program said they had identified 46 mutations in the variant.
"SARS-CoV-2 variants have become a major virological, epidemiological and clinical concern, particularly with regard to the risk of escape from vaccine-induced immunity," the paper's authors wrote.
The scientists also postulated that the new variant was probably of "Cameroonian" origin. Readers can find the complete report below. The variant has been given the name B.1.640.2, and was first detected by experts at the IHU Mediterranee Infection Foundation in Marseille.
According to the paper, the scientists' analysis of the variant's genome revealed 46 mutations and "37 deletions resulting in 30 amino acid substitutions and 12 deletions. Fourteen 43 amino acid substitutions, including N501Y and E484K, and 9 deletions are located in the 44 spike protein."
Read the full report below:
2021.12.24.21268174v1.full on Scribd
New variants are discovered frequently, but most don't go on to become "variants of concern", like omicron, delta and beta. The WHO has assigned each variant of concern with a name from the Greek alphabet (the first was "alpha", the second "beta", while letters "Xi" and "Nu" have been skipped because they are "confusing", per the WHO).