All you need to know about the new 'IHU' COVID-19 variant

The variant was discovered in France

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Clinical support technician Douglas Condie extracts viruses from swab samples so that the genetic structure of a virus can be analysed and identified in the coronavirus testing laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, on February 19, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

A new variant of the Covid-19 virus has been detected in France, it is said to be more contagious.

Named IHU, the new B.1.640.2 variant has so far infected 12 people living in south-eastern France. It is referred to as 'IHU' as it was detected by researchers at Instituts Hospitalo-Universitaires (IHU) Mediterranee Infection.

Why is IHU concerning?

Genetic lineages of SARS-CoV-2 have been emerging and circulating around the world since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Delta and Omicron are the two variants of concern so far identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A genetic analysis of the variant found that it contains 46 mutations and 37 deletions from the original SARS-CoV-2. Of those, there are 14 amino acid substitutions and nine deletions on the spike protein, which is what SARS-CoV-2 uses to latch onto your cells.

Amino acids are molecules that combine to form proteins, and both are the building blocks of life. In genetics, a deletion is a mutation in which a part of a chromosome or a sequence of DNA is left out during DNA replication.

The B.1.640.2 has not been identified in other countries so far or labelled a variant under investigation by the World Health Organization (WHO).

COVID-19 situation in Kenya

On Wednesday, January 5 2,216 people tested positive for Covid-19 from a sample size of 8,669 tested in Kenya.

The positivity rate is now at 25.6 per cent, with 1,984 of the cases being Kenyans while 232 are foreigners.

1,124 are men and 1,092 are women. The youngest is a two-month-old child while the oldest is 105 years.

Kenya's total confirmed positive cases are now 304,350 and cumulative tests so far conducted are 3,065,623.

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