WHO is Monitoring a Coronavirus Variant That May Be Immune to Vaccines

World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring a new Coronavirus variant known as “Mu” that first emerged in Colombia in January 2021.

According to its weekly COVID-19 bulletin, WHO has reclassified Mu as a “variant of interest” amid fears that it may evade the immunity developed from vaccination or past infection.

Scientifically known as B.1.621, the Mu variant was added to WHO’s list of “variants of interest” on 30 August after it was detected in 39 countries. Besides South America, the US, UK, Europe, and Hong Kong have reported cases of the Mu variant.

While Mu variant accounts for less than 0.1% of COVID-19 infections globally, it has established a strong foothold in Colombia and Ecuador where it makes up for 39% and 13% of Coronavirus cases respectively.

Vaccines Don’t Help

Preliminary data has shown the variant possesses a cluster of mutations that indicates it has immune escape properties. It may evade immune defense in a similar way to the Beta variant that was first discovered in South Africa. However, this needs to be confirmed by further research.

Scientists are also working to determine whether the Mu variant is more transmissible or causes more serious disease than the Delta variant that is the dominant Coronavirus strain across the world.

WHO will continuously monitor the epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly with the co-circulation of the Delta variant, the weekly bulletin concluded.

Variants of Concern

Viruses, including the SARS-COV-2, are known to mutate all the time.

While most mutations have little to no impact on the virus, certain mutations can strengthen it, influencing its transmissibility, severity of the infection it causes, and resistance to vaccines and drugs.

Currently, there are four variants of Coronavirus that have been classified as “variants of concern” by WHO. These are Alpha, first detected in the UK, Beta, first detected in South Africa, Gamma, first detected in Brazil, and Delta first detected in India.

WHO is also keeping close tabs on five COVID-19 variants that have been classified as “variants of interest.” These are Eta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, and Mu.