Mu: New Covid strain designated variant of interest by WHO

1 September 2021, 06:06 | Updated: 2 September 2021, 06:17

A new coronavirus strain has been designated a variant of interest
A new coronavirus strain has been designated a variant of interest. Picture: Alamy
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A new Covid strain named Mu that was first detected in Colombia has been designated a variant of interest by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Mu, or B.1.621, has since spread to other South American countries and has also been found in Europe.

It has mutations that suggest it could be more resistant to vaccines - like the Beta variant - but more studies will be needed to examine this further, the WHO's weekly bulletin on the pandemic said.

The report added: "Since its first identification in Colombia in January 2021, there have been a few sporadic reports of cases of the Mu variant and some larger outbreaks have been reported from other countries in South America and in Europe.

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"Although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1 per cent, the prevalence in Colombia (39 per cent) and Ecuador (13 per cent) has consistently increased.

"The epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly with the co-circulation of the Delta variant, will be monitored for changes."

WHO officials have so far identified four variants of concern: the Alpha variant - first recorded in Kent - seen in 193 countries, Beta in 141, Gamma in 91 and Delta in 170 countries.

Meanwhile, Mu is the fifth Covid variant of interest.