What do we know about mu, the new variant of the coronavirus

What do we know about mu, the new variant of the coronavirus

What do we know about mu

Observed in Colombia and Ecuador, where it is spreading, it has been included among the variants of interest of Sars-Cov-2 for some characteristics that must be carefully monitored

(Photo: Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash) more. It is called mu and it is the new variant of the coronavirus just inserted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the list of so-called variant of interest. By variant of interest we mean a form of Sars-CoV-2 to be kept under control and monitored, due to the presence of some characteristics that could make it dangerous from an epidemiological and clinical point of view.

WHO and thousands of researchers all over the world constantly follow the evolution of the virus precisely for this reason: intercepting changes in the circulating forms that may influence the progress of the pandemic, and the response to the measures implemented to combat it, including vaccines of course. The mu variant (also known as B.1.621 and 21H respectively according to the Pango and Nextstrain nomenclatures), still largely to be characterized from a clinical point of view, has been included among the variants of interest as it presents "a constellation of mutations indicating potential properties of immunological escape ". That is: this variant could escape the immune system. This is suggested by some preliminary data that show a reduction in the neutralization capacity of the sera of vaccinated and convalescent people, similar to what was observed for the beta variant, explained by the WHO.

In fact, the classification of a variant such as you occurs when genetic characteristics are identified in the virus that are believed or known to "influence characteristics of the virus such as transmissibility, disease severity, immunological evasion, diagnostic or therapeutic escape ”, Recall from the WHO. But not only that: in order to talk about you it is also necessary to observe a certain prevalence at the epidemiological level.

The mu variant was identified for the first time in Colombia at the beginning of the year and although globally it is prevalence is low (less than 0.1%), in Colombia and Ecuador it increased to 39% and 13% respectively. mu is currently the fifth Voi identified by the WHO, together with the variants eta, iota, kappa and lambda. The highly contagious delta variant, on the other hand, is a Voc (variant of concern), together with the variants alpha, beta, gamma, forms for which there is evidence that the changes in the virus are also reflected in public health.

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What do we know about Mu, the new Covid strain designated a variant of interest by WHO?

The new Mu Covid strain added to the World Health Organisation’s “variants of interest” list






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The Mu Covid strain has been added to the World Health Organisation’s “variants of interest” list.

Scientists are concerned that the newly identified variant may be able to evade the immunity people have developed from vaccinations or previously having the virus.

The strain, also known as B.1.621, was added to the WHO’s watchlist on August 30.

Here’s what we know so far...

a hand holding a blue ball: A pharmacy technician loads a syringe with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine © AP A pharmacy technician loads a syringe with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

Where has the Mu variant been detected?

The strain was added to the WHO watchlist after being found in 39 countries.

It was first discovered in Colombia in January. Since then there have been cases reported in the UK, mainland Europe, the US and Hong Kong.

Globally, it makes up less than 0.1 per cent of Covid infections.

But it appears to be gaining ground in Colombia and Ecuador where it now accounts for 39 per cent and 13 per cent of coronavirus infections respectively.

At least 55 cases of the variant have been detected in the UK.

Is the Mu strain more contagious and does it cause more severe disease?

Scientists are investigating whether the Mu variant is more transmissible or whether it causes more serious disease.

It is still far less prominent than the Delta variant, which now makes up the majority of the world’s cases.

“The epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly with the co-circulation of the Delta variant, will be monitored for changes,” a WHO bulletin states.

Can it evade vaccines?

The Mu variant “has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape”, according to the WHO.

Preliminary data suggests it could evade human immune defences in a similar way to the Beta variant, which was first discovered in South Africa.

However more investigations need to be done, the WHO said.

What is Public Health England saying about the Mu variant?

PHE released a risk assessment of the Mu variant in August. It refers to it as VUI-21JUL-01.

The report highlighted laboratory analysis that suggested the variant is at least as resistant as the Beta variant to vaccines.

However, the threat the Mu strain poses is still unclear and depends on whether cases grow.

The report states: “At present, there is no evidence that VUI-21JUL-01 is outcompeting the Delta variant and it appears unlikely that it is more transmissible.”

It adds: “Immune escape may contribute to future changes in growth.”

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