A variant of the COVID-19 virus has been flagged by the World Health Organization as a “variant of interest”.
The Mu variant, a strain of the COVID-19 virus, emerged in Columbia and was first identified in January 2021. The variant has been detected in around 39 countries and continues to raise concern.
WHO have spoken out about the variant saying that due to the unique constellations of mutation, Mu indicates “potential properties of immune escape“. This essentially means that some protection provided by the covid vaccine may be void.
However, there are some reassuring aspects to this covid variant. The Delta strain is easily outrunning the Mu variant making up majority of current covid cases. Experts say that if the variant was extreme, its outbreaks would have been more prominent.
There are currently no indications that this is the case.
An essential method of combating covid has been genomic sequencing, which allows for the tracking of changes and adaptions of the virus.
There are detrimental mutations that can develop, which make the virus less harmful and more contagious. A variant can also possess beneficial mutations that aid its ability to spread and evade vaccine protection.
The Mu variant has properties that may indicate its potential to do more harm. Therefore, it has been labelled a “variant of interest”.
The World Health Organization is tracking a new COVID-19 variant called Mu, which could be able to evade the immunity provided by vaccines and prior infections. https://t.co/I4rLvRkn9i pic.twitter.com/wattZWAIhv
— WebMD (@WebMD) September 3, 2021
What does this mean for all of the vaccines that have been rolled out across the world? The purpose of most covid vaccines is to attack the “spike protein” used by the virus to invade our cells.
If the Mu variant had the ability to change the spike proteins there is potential for the vaccine to unfortunately have decreased effectiveness.
According to WHO, early evidence suggested there is the potential for the Mu variant to evade vaccine antibodies.
“The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” the World Health Organization said. https://t.co/oojcWAZirS
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) September 1, 2021
It is important to note that this is data gathered from lab studies. The way the variant effects a population of people could be different to the clinical testing.
More research needs to be done, but currently our available vaccines prevent serious illness from all current variants.