[ Note that this paper has not yet been peer reviewed. ]
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. Here we describe the emergence of a new variant. For twelve SARS-CoV-positive patients living in the same geographical area of southeastern France, qPCR testing that screen for variant-associated mutations showed an atypical combination.
The index case returned from a travel in Cameroon.
The genomes were obtained by next-generation sequencing with Oxford Nanopore Technologies on GridION instruments within ≈8 h. Their analysis revealed 46 mutations and 37 deletions resulting in 30 amino acid substitutions and 12 deletions. Fourteen amino acid substitutions, including N501Y and E484K, and 9 deletions are located in the spike protein. This genotype pattern led to create a new Pangolin lineage named B.1.640.2, which is a phylogenetic sister group to the old B.1.640 lineage renamed B.1.640.1. Both lineages differ by 25 nucleotide substitutions and 33 deletions. The mutation set and phylogenetic position of the genomes obtained here indicate based on our previous definition a new variant we named “IHU”. These data are another example of the unpredictability of the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants, and of their introduction in a given geographical area from abroad.