New ‘Mu’ variant of COVID-19 could be more vaccine-resistant, warns WHO
The World Health Organisation has said that it is closely monitoring a new coronavirus “variant of interest” named Mu, warning that the new variant shows signs of possible resistance to vaccines.
Mu – also known by its scientific name as 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, the U.N. health agency said in its weekly bulletin on the pandemic on Tuesday. The cases of the Mu variant have also been reported in the U.K., Europe, the U.S. and Hong Kong.
The new ‘variant of interest’ is being closely monitored, the U.N. health agency said.
Although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced COVID-19 cases is currently below 0.1%, its prevalence in Colombia (39%) and Ecuador (13%) has consistently increased, it said.
The new variant was added to the WHO’s watchlist on August 30 after it was detected in 39 countries and found to possess a “constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” it said.
Reports on the variant’s prevalence should be “interpreted with due consideration” given the low sequencing capacity of most countries, the U.N. agency said.
Mu is the fifth variant of interest to be monitored by the WHO since March.
It has a number of mutations that suggest it could be more resistant to vaccines, the WHO warned, but said that further research would be needed to confirm this.
As of August 29, over 4,500 sequences (3,794 B.1.621 sequences and 856 B.1.621.1 sequences), genome sequences, and analysed samples of the virus taken from patients, have been designated as Mu in the past four weeks.
The sequences are used to track how it moves through the population, on an open-source genome repository, known as GISAID. Most of these have been reported in the U.S (2,065) and Colombia (852), Mexico (357) and Spain (473). Meanwhile, South African scientists are closely monitoring the development of another new variant there.
Scientists from 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 first detected in the country in May this year.
– THE HINDU