The World Health Organization (WHO) is tracking a new COVID-19 variant that it says could have the ability to evade the immunity people get from vaccines and prior COVID-19 infections.
Called Mu, the B.1.621 variant was first detected in Colombia in January this year. It has since been detected in 39 countries and was added to the WHO’s watchlist on August 30.
In the WHO’s weekly bulletin, the organization said the variant “has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape.”
The WHO noted in its bulletin that further studies will need to be done on the mutated variant to see if it can evade immune defenses to COVID-19 like the Beta variant first detected in South Africa.
According to the open-source database Outbreak.info, 1,953 cases of the Mu variant have been reported in the US. At press time, only two states — South Dakota and Nebraska — have not yet seen infections of the Mu variant.
“At the moment, it looks like there’s genuine cause for concern in USA, Central America, and South America, but as we saw with Delta, a potent variant can traverse the globe in the blink of an eye,” said Danny Altmann, an immunology expert at Imperial College London, to The Telegraph.
Mutations of the COVID-19 virus have indeed wreaked havoc worldwide. The contagious Delta variant caused a devastating wave of COVID infections in India and led to a sharp surge in cases in the US.
The recent case surge in America has prompted the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend that even the fully vaccinated should wear masks indoors.
At press time on September 1, the US reported a daily average of 166,080 cases of COVID-19 infections, bringing its total number of infections to 39,527,445, per The New York Times’ COVID-19 case tracker. This marks an 18% increase over the last 14 days in the number of COVID cases reported in the US.