There’s yet another variant of COVID-19 to be concerned about — the mu variant, which the World Health Organization is warning may be contagious even to be people who are vaccinated or have acquired a level of immunity from prior COVID infection.
The WHO put the mu variant on its list of “variants of interest” on Aug. 30. The B.1.621 variant joins four others educating the general public on the Greek alphabet, with eta, iota, kappa, and lambda already populating the list.
The delta variant, which became a variant of interest in April and a variant of concern the next month, is currently being blamed for rises in cases and hospitalizations throughout the United States. While it’s unclear how much of a threat the mu variant might present, it “has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” according to a CNBC report alerting audiences to its danger.
The variant was first identified in Colombia in January 2021, and has since been confirmed in at least 39 countries, including the U.S. The global prevalence of the variant has declined to currently below 0.1% of all sequenced cases, but its numbers in Colombia and Ecuador are increasing, prompting the WHO to monitor it. France 24 noted, in its reporting, that 39% of cases in Colombia are attributable to the mu variant.
As noted by the Guardian, “preliminary data suggests it may evade immune defenses in a similar way to the Beta variant first discovered in South Africa.” It also pointed out that “at least 32 cases of the Mu variant have been detected in the UK, where the pattern of infections suggests it was brought in by travelers on multiple occasions.” Most of the cases in the UK were found in London among people in their 20s. Some of those who tested positive for the mu variant had received at least one dose of a two-dose COVID vaccine.