GENEVA – The World Health Organization has said it is monitoring a new variant of coronavirus labeled as “Mu”, which was first reported in Colombia in January 2021.
The global health body in its weekly pandemic bulletin has classified Mu, scientifically as B.1.621, as a “variant of interest”.
It said that the mutation of the variant indicates a risk of resistance to Covid-19 vaccines and stressed that further studies were required to better understand it.
“The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” the bulletin said.
“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 needs to be confirmed by further studies,” it added.
The cases of the Mu variant have also been found in South American countries and in Europe.
Although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has decreased and is currently below 0.1%, the prevalence in Colombia, where it stands at 39%, and Ecuador (13% ) has witnessed constant surge. WHO said.
WHO added: “The reported prevalence should be interpreted with due consideration of sequencing capacities and timeliness of sharing of sequences, both of which vary between countries. More studies are required to understand the phenotypic and clinical characteristics of this variant. The epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly with the co-circulation of the Delta variant, will be monitored for changes.”
The WHO has currently identified four Covid-19 variants of concern, including Alpha, which is present in 193 countries, and Delta, present in 170 countries.