"variant of interest"
MU new variant of COVID-19 could be more vaccine-resistant: WHO
The World Health Organization has stated that it is closely monitoring a new coronavirus "variant of interest" known as Mu, and has warned that the new variant shows signs of vaccine resistance.
Mu, also known by its scientific name B.1.621, was first identified in Colombia in January 2021, and since then, there have been "sporadic reports" of cases and some larger outbreaks in South America and Europe, according to the UN health agency in its weekly pandemic bulletin on Tuesday.
Cases of the Mu variant have also been reported in the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States, and Hong Kong.
According to the UN health agency, the new 'variant of interest' is being closely monitored.
Although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced COVID-19 cases is currently less than 0.1 percent, it has consistently increased in Colombia (39 percent) and Ecuador (13 percent), according to the study.
The new variant was added to the WHO's watchlist on August 30 after being detected in 39 countries and found to have a "constellation of mutations that indicate potential immune escape properties," according to the WHO.
Reports on the prevalence of the variant should be "interpreted with due consideration given the low sequencing capacity of most countries," according to the UN agency.
Mu is the fifth variant of interest that the WHO has been tracking since March. The WHO warned that it has a number of mutations that suggest it may be more resistant to vaccines, but that more research is needed to confirm this.
The preliminary data suggests that it may evade immune defenses in a manner similar to the Beta variant discovered in South Africa, according to the UN agency, though this needs to be confirmed by additional research.
"More research is needed to understand the phenotypic and clinical characteristics of this variant," it said, adding that the epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly with the co-circulation of the Delta variant, will be closely monitored for changes.
Over 4,500 sequences (3,794 B.1.621 sequences and 856 B.1.621.1 sequences), genome sequences, and patient-derived virus samples had been designated as Mu as of August 29. The sequences are used to track how it moves through the population on GISAID, an open-source genome repository.
The majority of these have been reported in the United States (2,065), Colombia (852), Mexico (357), and Spain (473).
Meanwhile, South African scientists are keeping a close eye on the development of another new variant in the country.
Scientists from South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) reported that the potential variant of interest, C.1.2, was discovered in the country in May of this year.
As of August 13, C.1.2 had been discovered in China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, England, New Zealand, Portugal, and Switzerland.
C.1.2, on the other hand, is neither a variant to follow nor a variant of concern, according to the World Health Organization's classification.
Viruses all mutate over time, and the majority of mutations have little to no effect on the virus's behavior.
According to Johns Hopkins University tracking data, the novel coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 45 lakh people worldwide.