The World Health Organization warns of a newly named COVID-19 variant that may be resistant to the vaccines.
The Mu variant, which also has the scientific name B.1.621, was first discovered in Colombia in January.
Since then, more than 4,600 cases have been reported and it has spread to more than 40 countries.
Nearly 2,000 cases of the variant have been discovered in the United States.
The WHO’s weekly bulletin claimed its mutations suggest it may be more resistant to vaccines, as was the case with the South African ‘beta’ variant.
There are fears it may also be more contagious.
But the agency warned that more studies would be needed to investigate this further, now that the WHO has formally labeled Mu a “variant of interest.”
Nearly 4,000 cases of the variant have been detected so far since its introduction in January, but the number of infections has fallen in recent weeks, coinciding with the rapid increase in the Delta variant. This chart shows the seven-day average number of cases worldwide attributable to the Mu variant. They Reveal That Prevalence Has Fallen Recently
The variant was first spotted in Colombia in January. It has since been detected in 40 countries
In the US it accounted for almost one percent of the infections in July, but the number of infections then decreased in August due to the spread of the Delta variant.
In Colombia — where it was first identified — it still lags behind about six in 10 cases. But the proportion of cases it covers in the country is also starting to decline
The WHO report said: “Since the first identification in Colombia in January 2021, there have been some sporadic reports of cases of the Mu variant and some larger outbreaks have been reported from other countries in South America and in Europe.
“While the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has decreased and is currently below 0.1 percent, the prevalence in Colombia (39 percent) and Ecuador (13 percent) has steadily increased.
‘The epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, especially in the co-circulation of the Delta variant, will be monitored for changes.’
The WHO currently lists four worrisome Covid variants: Alpha, Beta, Gamma and the highly transmissible Delta.
What is the variant ‘Mu’ or B.1.621?
Where have the cases been identified?
This mutated species was first spotted in Colombia in January.
Since then, it has spread to over 40 countries, including the UK, US, France, Japan and Canada.
Is the prevalence rising?
4,000 cases have been detected so far, but this is considered an underestimate as many countries that have suffered from outbreaks have very little monitoring of variants.
The number of cases attributed to the variant dropped worldwide last month, amid the spread of the Delta strain.
In Colombia – where it was first discovered – it still lags behind about six in ten infections.
Can the strain evading the vaccine trigger immunity?
The variant carries the mutation E484K, which allows it to escape antibodies.
This change can also be found on the South African ‘Beta’ variant and the Brazilian ‘Gamma’ variant.
A PHE study previously suggested it could make vaccines less effective. But UK health leaders said more research was needed.
Mu is the fifth interesting variant and is followed alongside Eta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda.
Infectious disease epidemiologist at WHO Maria van Kerkhove tweeted: “The circulation of Mu has declined worldwide and the [makes up] less than 0.1 percent of the currently shared sequences of Mu, but this requires careful observation.”
“Monitoring and assessment of variants is ongoing and critical to understand the evolution of this virus, fight Covid and adapt strategies where necessary.”
The most important mutations include E484K, which can aid in the escape of antibodies and is also found in the beta and gamma variants.
It also has the N501Y, which could help it spread more easily. This mutation is also present in Alpha.
The coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, constantly mutates as a result of genetic errors as it multiplies. Most mutations are harmless.
But the ones that allow it to spread faster or survive longer in the human body are the ones that are likely to stick around.
More than 300 Covid variants have been detected so far.
To combat the variant, US health officials are pushing for vaccine booster shots.
Last month, the White House announced plans to begin rolling out the third injections of the COVID-19 vaccines from September 20.
Officials cited the Delta variant and its potential ability to create breakthrough cases as the reason boosters are needed.
However, not everyone supports the rollout of boosters, as some, including WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, have called on countries like the United States to pause booster rollouts and donate vaccines to lower-income countries instead. .
With vaccination rates still low in many countries, there is a possibility that variants could form in another country and then make their way to the US
For example, the Delta variant wreaked havoc in India before taking over the United States and the rest of the world.
Mu originated in Colombia and could potentially pose a problem in the US as well.
Fears of the Mu variant arose just as cases of the Delta variant began to falter in America.
Cases grew 67 percent from August 2 to August 16, from 85,000 per day to 142,000 per day, and just 15 percent, from 139,000 per day to 160,000 per day from August 17 to 31.
The slowdown in the growth of the number of cases was a positive sign that the Covid wave is coming to an end in the summer of 2021.