September 3, 2021: -The World Health Organization is monitoring the latest coronavirus variant called “mu,” which the agency said has mutations that have the potential to evade immunity provided by a previous Covid-19 infection or vaccination.
On Tuesday, Mu was added to the WHO’s list of variants “of interest” on August 30, the international health organization said in its weekly Covid epidemiological report.
The variant contains genetic mutations that indicate natural immunity; the vaccines or monoclonal antibody treatments currently may not work as well against it as they do against the original ancestral virus, the WHO said. The mu strain requires further study to confirm whether it will be more contagious, deadly, or resistant to current vaccines and treatments.
On Tuesday, Mu “has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” the WHO wrote.
“Preliminary data presented to the Virus Evolution Working Group show a reduction in neutralization capacity of convalescent and vaccine sera similar to that seen for the Beta variant, but this should be confirmed by future studies,” it added.
The agency monitors four variants “of concern,” which include delta, which was first detected in India and is the most prevalent variant which currently circulates in the U.S.; alpha first saw in the U.K.; beta, first noticed in South Africa; and gamma, first detected in Brazil. A variant of concern is defined as a mutated strain that’s either more contagious, deadly, or resistant to current vaccines and treatments.
It’s also keeping a close watch on four other variants of interest, including lambda, first identified in Peru that have caused outbreaks in multiple countries and have genetic changes that could make them more dangerous than other strains.
Delta is a variant of interest until the WHO reclassified it in May after preliminary studies found it could spread faster than other virus versions. That variant has since been blamed for several large outbreaks worldwide, including in the United States.
According to the WHO, the new variant, mu, was first identified in Colombia but has been confirmed in at least 39 countries. Although the global prevalence of the variant in sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1%, its prevalence in Colombia and Ecuador has consistently increased, the agency warned.
The WHO said the studies are required to understand the clinical characteristics of the new variant.
“The epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly regarding the co-circulation of the Delta variant, will be monitored for changes,” the agency said.