World Health Organization Identifies 'Mu' COVID-19 Strand as 'Variant of Interest'

World Health Organization Identifies 'Mu' COVID-19 Strand as 'Variant of Interest'

The World Health Organization is now tracking a new coronavirus variant known as "mu," or B.1.621.

Early research on the new variant shows the new variant may be more resistant to COVID-19 vaccines, The Christian Post reports.

This week, the WHO said the mu variant was first identified in January 2021 in Colombia, but this week, it became a "variant of interest."

Variants of interest usually cause "significant community transmission or multiple COVID-19 clusters, in multiple countries with increasing relative prevalence alongside an increasing number of cases over time, or other apparent epidemiological impacts to suggest an emerging risk to global public health," according to the WHO.

"The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape," the global health agency noted. "Preliminary data presented to the Virus Evolution Working Group show a reduction in neutralization capacity of convalescent and vaccinee sera similar to that seen for the Beta variant, but this needs to be confirmed by further studies."

More than 2,000 cases of mu variant have been reported in the U.S.

"Although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1 percent, the prevalence in Colombia (39 percent) and Ecuador (13 percent) has consistently increased. 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 international health agency added.

COVID is already monitoring the alpha, beta, delta and gamma variants as "variants of concern."

Researchers said that during a wave of infections earlier this year in Qatar, the alpha variant presents a 48 percent higher risk of severe disease than wild-type variants."

Meanwhile, the Beta variant "posed a 24 percent higher risk of severe disease, 49 percent higher risk of critical disease, and 57 percent higher risk of COVID-19 death."

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Panorama Images, COVID-19

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.