The World Health Organisation closely monitors another Covid-19 variant, termed Mu or B.1.621, that might emerge as a variant of concern in the recent future as it showed signs of possible resistance to vaccines.
Where had the new Mu variant originated
The variant of interest was first identified in Columbia in January 2021. Since then, reports have been sporadic rise in cases, more significant outbreaks in and around Europe and South America, the UN health agency’s weekly bulletin said.
Over 4,500 samples were genome sequenced as of August 29 and analyzed samples were designated as Mu. Most cases were detected from the US, followed by Columbia, Mexico, and then Span. Issues of the new variant of interest were also reported in the UK, Europe, and Hong Kong.
Why it is on WHO’s watchlist
The variant was added to WHO’s watchlist on August 30 after Covid cases with the same variant were found in 39 countries. On genome sequencing, it was found that the variant went through a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties that can make it evade immune response from vaccination.
The prevalence of the sequenced cases is the highest in Columbia at 39% and then Ecuador at 13% e of the Mu variant even when its global prevalence is below 0.1 percent currently.
The Mu variant also of the B.1.621 lineage was under WHO’s scanner since March for undergoing several mutations that make it vaccine resistant, but said that further research is required to affirm the same. According to WHO, more studies were needed to understand its phenotypic and clinical characteristics. According to the preliminary data, the variant escapes immune defenses similar to beta variants first found in South Africa.
Mu variant is resistant to a vaccine as Beta: PHE report.
According to risk management of the new variant report released by Public Health England, the variant can resist immunity formed from vaccination at least as much as the Beta variant. Moreover, WHO’s preliminary studies show that the new variant can also evade the natural immunity created by a body due to earlier infection and immunity formed by vaccination.
Is the Mu variant more transmissible?
A report by the Guardian says there is so far no evidence that supports that it is outcompeting the Delta variant, and it appears unlikely that it is more transmissible. But immune escape can dictate how it spreads in a population in the future. The Mu variant’s threat now depends on whether cases grow substantially in the coming weeks and months.
Meanwhile, another potential variant of interest, C.1.2, is being closely monitored in South Africa. The cases were first detected in May this year and found in England, New Zealand, Switzerland, Portugal, China, Mauritius, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
However, C.1.2 has not been raised as a variant to follow or of concern by WHO. So far, WHO has classified four variants of a problem – Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma – along with five variants of interest, including Mu.