The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that a new coronavirus “variant of interest” named Mu, also known by its scientific name as B.1.621.
The health organisation said it closely monitors the new variant’s spread.
The mu SARS-CoV-2 strain first appeared in Colombia in January, as a “variant of interest.”
Since then, there have been “sporadic reports” of cases and outbreaks in South America and Europe.
Variants of interest have genetic changes that affect virus characteristics including transmissibility, disease severity and immune escape.
According to the WHO, variants of interest differ from variants of concern. The later can cause a decrease in effectiveness of public health measures, vaccines or therapeutics.
“[Mu] has been designated as a Variant of Interest as it has some mutations that need to be studied for their potential impact on the body’s immune response.”
“Data shared with the WHO Virus Evolution Working Group indicate that immunity developed through prior infection or vaccination may not be as strong against this variant. More studies should confirm this,” WHO said in a statement.
“The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape. Preliminary data presented to the Virus Evolution Working Group show a reduction in neutralization capacity of convalescent and vaccine sera similar to that seen for the Beta variant. But this needs more explanation by further studies.”
Other variants of interest include eta, iota, kappa and lambda. Like mu, lambda was also first detected in South America, in Peru. Iota was first detected in the U.S. in November.