GENEVA, Switzerland – The World Health Organization has added another interesting variant of COVID-19 to its list of ‘interesting variants’. On Monday, the WHO said it was now monitoring the development of the “Mu” variant.
The Mu variant, officially known as B.1.621, was first detected in January in the South American nation of Colombia. The The Mu variant is one of five variants listed by the WHO as âvariants of interestâ. Other strains on the list include Eta, Iota, Kappa, and Lambda. A few of these strains, including Lambda, have already been reported in the United States.
WHO said variants of interest are strains of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) that exhibit “genetic changes that are predicted or known to affect characteristics of the virus such as transmissibility, disease severity, immune leakage, diagnostic leakage or therapeutic âand which have beenâ identified as causing significant community transmission or multiple clusters of COVID-19, in several countries with an increasing relative prevalence alongside an increasing number of cases over time, or other apparent epidemiological impacts suggesting a emerging risk to global public health. “
The WHO list of variants of interest is the second highest level of variation measurement, behind only âvariations of concernâ. Variants at the highest level include Alpha, the Initial Variant, and the Delta Variant, which are currently spreading uncontrollably in Florida and many other US states. The Delta variant was identified as an interesting variant on April 4 and became a variant of concern on May 11. However, not all variants go from interesting variants to worrisome variants.
The Mu variant is the only variant of interest on the list that had a first case reported in 2021. The UK Guardian reported that the Mu variant has already been seen in the United States and accounts for nearly 40 percent of COVID cases in Colombia. According to the Guardian, British scientists said the concern about Mu “stems from the particular mutations it carries” that “could help the virus escape the immune system, which could give the variant an advantage over Delta while immunity increases in the fall “.
According to the WHO, he will work on Mu’s âcomparative assessment of variant characteristics and public health risksâ and, if necessary, âcoordinated laboratory investigations with Member States and partnersâ.