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Surveillance Open Access
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Abstract

Background

Successive epidemic waves of COVID-19 illustrated the potential of SARS-CoV-2 variants to reshape the pandemic. Detecting and characterising emerging variants is essential to evaluate their public health impact and guide implementation of adapted control measures.

Aim

To describe the detection of emerging variant, B.1.640, in France through genomic surveillance and present investigations performed to inform public health decisions.

Methods

Identification and monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.640 was achieved through the French genomic surveillance system, producing 1,009 sequences. Additional investigation of 272 B.1.640-infected cases was performed between October 2021 and January 2022 using a standardised questionnaire and comparing with Omicron variant-infected cases.

Results

B.1.640 was identified in early October 2021 in a school cluster in Bretagne, later spreading throughout France. B.1.640 was detected at low levels at the end of SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant’s dominance and progressively disappeared after the emergence of the Omicron (BA.1) variant. A high proportion of investigated B.1.640 cases were children aged under 14 (14%) and people over 60 (27%) years, because of large clusters in these age groups. B.1.640 cases reported previous SARS-CoV-2 infection (4%), anosmia (32%) and ageusia (34%), consistent with data on pre-Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variants. Eight percent of investigated B.1.640 cases were hospitalised, with an overrepresentation of individuals aged over 60 years and with risk factors.

Conclusion

Even though B.1.640 did not outcompete the Delta variant, its importation and continuous low-level spread raised concerns regarding its public health impact. The investigations informed public health decisions during the time that B.1.640 was circulating.

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/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2023.28.22.2200671
2023-06-01
2024-07-15
http://instance.metastore.ingenta.com/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2023.28.22.2200671
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