COVID VaccinesReturn to WorkMental Health

WHO official downplays COVID variant discovered in France

January 4, 2022, 3:56 PM UTC

The World Health Organization said a coronavirus variant found in France hasn’t become much of a threat since it was first identified in November.

The variant “has been on our radar,” Abdi Mahamud, a WHO incident manager on COVID, said at a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday. “That virus had a lot of chances to pick up.”

The variant was identified in 12 people in the southern Alps around the same time that Omicron was discovered in South Africa last year. The latter mutation has since traveled the globe and kindled record levels of contagion, unlike the French one that researchers at the IHU Mediterranee Infection—helmed by scientist Didier Raoult—nicknamed IHU. 

The first patient identified with the variant was vaccinated and had just returned from Cameroon, IHU researchers wrote in a paper published on the medRxiv server in late December where they first drew attention to the atypical mutations. 

It’s “too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this IHU variant based on these 12 cases,” they wrote in the article, which hasn’t been peer reviewed.

Raoult stirred controversy in the early stages of the pandemic by recommending treatment with hydroxychloroquine.

The WHO monitors multiple variants, and when it finds one may pose a significant risk, it declares it a “variant of concern.” This one is only under investigation.

Never miss a story: Follow your favorite topics and authors to get a personalized email with the journalism that matters most to you.