Sep 1, 2021 - Health

WHO tracking new COVID variant called Mu

A mother gets vaccinated against COVID-19
A woman gets vaccinated against COVID-19 in Bogotá, Colombia. Photo: Sebastian Barros/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The World Health Organization added a coronavirus strain called Mu, which was first detected in Colombia in January, to its "Variants of Interest" list on Monday.

Why it matters: The WHO warned that data suggests protection from prior infection or vaccination may not be as strong against the Mu variant, adding that further research is needed to confirm that.

The big picture: The Mu variant, formally known as B.1.621, has a cluster of mutations that "that indicate potential properties of immune escape," WHO noted in its weekly epidemiological report.

  • The variant has thus far been detected in 39 countries. Although it makes up only 0.1% of global COVID-19 cases, its prevalence in South America has been rising, and it currently makes up 39% of cases in Colombia and 13% in Ecuador.

Be smart: The WHO defines Variants of Interest as having genetic changes that affect virus characteristics like transmissibility, disease severity and immune escape, while having significant community transmission.

  • They differ from Variants of Concern, which lower the effectiveness of public health and social measures or diagnostics and therapeutics.
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