The World Health Organization has said it is closely monitoring a new coronavirus variant called Mu. It has been warned that the new version shows signs of potential resistance to the vaccines.
“Mu (also known as B.1.621) was first identified in Colombia in January 2021,” the United Nations Health Agency said in its weekly bulletin on the pandemic. Since then there have been “sporadic reports” of cases, with some major outbreaks in South America and Europe.
Cases of the mu variant have also been reported in the UK, Europe, the US, and Hong Kong. The United Nations health agency said the new type was being closely monitored. Although the global prevalence of the mu variant in sequenced COVID-19 cases is currently less than 0.1%, its prevalence has steadily increased in Colombia (39%) and Ecuador (13%).
The new variant was added to the WHO’s monitoring list on 30 August after it was detected in 39 countries and found a “constellation of mutations that show potential evading immunity.”The UN agency said the report on the prevalence of variants should be interpreted with due consideration given the low sequencing capacity of most countries.
Mu is the fifth type to be monitored by the WHO since March. It has several mutations, which suggest it may be more resistant to vaccines. The WHO warned but said further research would be needed to confirm this. Preliminary data suggest it may evade immune defenses similar to the beta variant first discovered in South Africa. The UN agency said this should be confirmed by further work.
As of 29 August, more than 4,500 sequences (3,794 B.1.621 sequences and 856 B.1.621.1 sequences), genome sequences, and virus samples were taken from patients analyzed in the past four weeks have been designated as Mu. . Sequences are used to track how it moves through a population.
Most of these have been reported in the Americas (2,065) and Colombia (852), Mexico (357) and Spain (473). Meanwhile, scientists in South Africa are closely monitoring the development of another new variant there.
Scientists from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) in South Africa said the potential variant of interest, C.1.2, was detected for the first time in the country in May this year. C.1.2 has since been found in China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, England, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland as of 13 August.
However, according to the classification of the World Health Organization, C.1.2 is not yet a type to follow, nor a type of concern. All viruses mutate over time and most mutations have little or no effect on the behavior of the virus.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 4.5 million people globally, according to tracking data from Johns Hopkins University.