Mu variant of coronavirus from Colombia as a new reason of concern, here is all you need to know
While countries are already struggling to battle with the delta variant, another variant is ready to attack and cause more serious concerns.
The European Medicines Agency on Thursday said that a coronavirus variant known as "Mu" could be cause for concern, although there is no data yet to show it will overtake the dominant Delta strain.
Mu, which was first identified in Colombia in January and is known scientifically as B.1.621, was classified earlier this month as a "variant of interest" by the World Health Organization. The EMA, while mainly focused on the highly transmissible Delta variant, is "also looking into other variants that might be spreading, like the Lambda one (identified in Peru) and more recently the Mu one," its vaccines strategy chief Marco Cavaleri told a press briefing.
"The Mu one being potentially more of concern because of the potential increased immune escape that it may show."
"However, I have to say that we don't have yet data that would show that the Mu variant is spreading that much, and whether it will have any chance to overtake the Delta variant as a dominant strain."
The WHO currently identifies four Covid-19 variants of concern, including Alpha, which is present in 193 countries, and Delta, present in 170 countries.
Five variants, including Mu, are to be monitored.
After being detected in Colombia, Mu has since been reported in other South American countries and in Europe.
The WHO has said that its global prevalence has declined to below 0.1 per cent among sequenced cases. In Colombia, however, it is at 39 per cent.
As of Thursday, a total of 5,599 sequences, including both B.1.621 and B.1.621.1, had been submitted by 47 countries to GISAID, the global research database on viruses.
The bulk of the submissions were from the United States and Colombia, followed by Spain, Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, and Canada.
The variant has not been detected in India so far. It is also not present in Africa, Australia, and most of Asia.
Globally, the cumulative prevalence of Mu is less than 0.5 per cent, according to outbreak.info.
As per a paper published in ‘Infection, Genetics and Evolution,' the Mu variant has several substitutions affecting the spike protein and amino acid changes.
Mutations including, E484K, N501Y, P681H, D614G are seen in the Mu variant have been reported in other VOIs and VOCs.
These mutations are known to help the virus escape the body’s immune defences. These also help in increasing transmissibility.