The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday it is monitoring a new coronavirus variant known as “Mu,” which was first identified in Colombia in January of 2021.
Mu, known scientifically as B.1.621, has been classified as a “variant of interest,” the global health body stated in its weekly pandemic bulletin.
The WHO said the variant has mutations that indicate a risk of resistance to vaccines and stressed that further studies were needed to better understand it.
It stated in the announcement “Since its first identification in Colombia in January 2021, there have been a few sporadic reports of cases of the Mu variant and some larger outbreaks have been reported from other countries in South America and in Europe.
“Although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1%, the prevalence in Colombia (39%) and Ecuador (13%) has consistently increased.
“The epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly with the co-circulation of the Delta variant, will be monitored for changes.
“The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” the bulletin said.
Concern over coronavirus variants
There is widespread concern over the emergence of new virus mutations as infection rates are ticking up globally again, with the highly transmissible Delta variant taking hold – especially among the unvaccinated – and in regions where anti-virus measures have been relaxed.
All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, mutate over time, and most mutations have little or no effect on the properties of the virus.
But certain mutations can impact the properties of a virus and influence how easily it spreads, the severity of the disease it causes, and its resistance to vaccines, drugs and other countermeasures.
After being detected in Colombia, Mu has since been reported in other South American countries and in Europe.
The WHO currently identifies four Covid-19 variants of concern, including Alpha, which is present in 193 countries, and Delta, present in 170 countries. Five variants, including Mu, are currently being monitored.
Half of Greece’s daily coronavirus cases have been linked to the Delta variant, according to Demetrios Thanos, President of the Biomedical Research Foundation at the Academy of Athens.
This determination proves that the fast-spreading Delta variant, first discovered in the country in late April of this year, has dug its claws into the country much more quickly than experts previously estimated.
In July, Pfizer and BioNTech announced they are developing a booster shot for the companies’ coronavirus vaccine which would bolster protection from the Delta variant of the virus.
The Delta variant is a form of the coronavirus which is more transmissible and cannot be combatted as easily by antibodies which have been made due to previous infection by other strains of the virus.