French scientists have detected a new mutant variant of the coronavirus, which they fear could be more resistant to COVID-19 vaccines but is not fast spreading.

The new variant, dubbed “IHU” or B.1.640.2, was first reported in November by researchers at the Méditerranée Infection University Hospital Institute in Marseilles, which means it is not newer than the Omicron variant.

According to USA Today, at least 12 patients were confirmed in France, and some were hospitalized with the illness.

In their pre-print, the researchers indicated that the IHU variant has 46 nucleotide substitutions and 37 deletions, which they fear could mean it is more resistant to existing COVID-19 vaccines.

However, current data indicates IHU variant is not a cause for concern. In addition, the new strain does not appear to be spreading rapidly.

In addition, the new variant has not been found anywhere outside the Alps region of France since then.

In a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, the World Health Organization said that the IHU variant “has been on our radar,” but it is not considered a variant of interest or concern. 

Meanwhile, Omicron, which was detected at about the same time as the IHU strain, is making international headlines as a highly transmissible variant replacing Delta as the dominant strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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