Finland has reported the very first case of the ‘Mu’ variant of the coronavirus, which was classified as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization (WHO) last month. According to a report citing Finnish researchers, although the ‘Mu’ variant of the coronavirus has now been detected in as many as 39 other countries apart from Finland, the variant does not pose any additional threats compared to the other variants of the virus causing the infectious disease.
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“All variants that can evade protection conferred by a previous infection or vaccine-provided immunity are potentially worrying, or ones that we have to monitor,” the report quoted Turku University virology professor Ilkka Julkunen as saying. “That’s the case with the ‘Mu’ variant as well.”
The Mu variant of the coronavirus was alerted by the WHO as being responsible for a growing number of Covid-19 cases in Colombia in South America and other countries. The variant, officially termed as B.1.621, “has been designated as a Variant of Interest as it has some mutations that need to be studied for their potential impact on the body’s immune response.”
The WHO designated it as a variant of interest due to the several concerning mutations, and assigned a Greek letter name to it. Mu carries key mutations, including E484K, N501Y, and D614G, that have been linked with increased transmissibility and reduced immune protection.
According to the WHO’s Bulletin published earlier this month, Mu has caused some larger outbreaks in South America and Europe. While the number of genetic sequences identified as Mu has fallen below 0.1% globally, Mu represents 39% of variants sequenced in Colombia and 13% in Ecuador, places where its prevalence has “consistently increased,” WHO reported.
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The global health agency said it continues to monitor Mu for changes in South America, especially in areas where it is co-circulating with the Delta variant. Maria van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases unit, said circulation of the variant is decreasing globally but needs to be observed closely. In a press briefing, White House chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci said US officials are watching it, but so far Mu is not considered an immediate threat.
(With inputs from Reuters)