The World Health Organization says it is monitoring a new COVID-19 variant with mutations that the agency fears could make it resistant to vaccines. The new variant, which the WHO is dubbing the “Mu” variant, is also known as B.1.621. It was added as a “variant of interest” to the WHO’s watchlist on Monday.
"The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape," the bulletin said.
Preliminary data observed by the WHO indicates that the variant may evade vaccines in a way similar to the Beta variant, but experts said that more research is necessary to arrive at any conclusions, according to Fox News. The Mu variant first emerged in Columbia in January 2021 and has appeared in at least 39 different countries.
"Although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1%, the prevalence in Colombia (39%) and Ecuador (13%) has consistently increased," the agency said, noting that the added uptick could be due to increased genetic sequencing.
According to AFP, “The WHO currently identifies four Covid-19 variants of concern, including Alpha, which is present in 193 countries, and Delta, present in 170 countries,” adding that five variants, including Mu, are listed as “variants of interest” to be monitored.
“The WHO said its global prevalence has declined to below 0.1 percent among sequenced cases. In Colombia, however, it is at 39 percent,” the publication reported.
Widespread concern from the scientific community exists over the emergence of new mutations of COVID-19 as infection rates continue to rise globally again, with the highly transmissible Delta variant becoming the dominant variant in circulation, especially in regions where lower percentages of the population have received one or more shots of the vaccine.