Is Mu variant of coronavirus vaccine resistant? WHO says it could be possible

  • The UN agency, however, clarified that regarding its ‘immune escape’ ability and vaccine resistance, more research needs to be conducted.
Over 4,500 sequences (3,794 B.1.621 sequences and 856 B.1.621.1 sequences), genome sequences and analysed samples of the virus which were taken from patients were designated as Mu in the past four weeks. Scientists work at a laboratory at Covid-19 Genomics UK, on the Wellcome Sanger Institute's 55-acre campus south of Cambridge, Britain. (Reuters/Representative Photo)
Over 4,500 sequences (3,794 B.1.621 sequences and 856 B.1.621.1 sequences), genome sequences and analysed samples of the virus which were taken from patients were designated as Mu in the past four weeks. Scientists work at a laboratory at Covid-19 Genomics UK, on the Wellcome Sanger Institute's 55-acre campus south of Cambridge, Britain. (Reuters/Representative Photo)
Published on Sep 02, 2021 04:05 PM IST
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Written by Shankhyaneel Sarkar | Edited by Amit Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the new coronavirus variant 'Mu' showed signs of possible resistance to vaccines. The global health body designated 'Mu' as a 'variant of interest' and is monitoring it closely, the UN health body said on Tuesday in its weekly bulletin.

Mu is also known by its scientific name, B.1.621. It was added to the WHO’s watchlist on August 30 which said that Mu possesses a "constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape". It also said that the variant’s prevalence should be interpreted with "due consideration" as all nations do not have proper sequencing facilities.

The UN agency, however, clarified that regarding its ‘immune escape’ ability and vaccine resistance, more research needs to be conducted. “More studies are required to understand the phenotypic and clinical characteristics of this variant,” the WHO said. It said that the preliminary data showed that Mu behaved in a similar way like the Beta variant when it was first found in South Africa.

Over 4,500 sequences (3,794 B.1.621 sequences and 856 B.1.621.1 sequences), genome sequences and analysed samples of the virus which were taken from patients were designated as Mu in the past four weeks. These sequences are used to track how it moves through the population on GISAID, an open-source genome repository.

Which countries have detected ‘Mu’

The variant was first identified in Colombia in January 2021. There have been reports of larger outbreaks in South America and Europe, news agency PTI reported. Cases of this variant were reported in the UK, Europe, the US and Hong Kong. The prevalence of the variant in Colombia (39%) and Ecuador (13%) has risen consistently, the WHO said. However, its global prevalence among sequenced Covid-19 cases is currently below 0.1%. Mu is the fifth Covid-19 variant to be detected since March 2021.

The United States has recorded 2,065 cases of the Mu variant, Colombia 582, Mexico 357 and Spain 473.

WHO finds another variant

Researchers in South Africa are monitoring a new variant in the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP). The variant, C.1.2, was first detected in the country in May this year. It is a potential variant of interest. China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, England, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland have reported finding the variant. The WHO is yet to classify the variant as a ‘variant of concern’.

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