In its weekly pandemic update on Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that it has identified a new coronavirus “variant of interest,” named Mu. Also known by its scientific name, B.1.621, the variant, according to WHO, was becoming increasingly prevalent in Colombia and Ecuador and warned that it shows signs of strong resistance to vaccines.
Mu was first identified in Colombia in January 2021 and since then there have been “sporadic reports” of cases and outbreaks in South America and Europe, the WHO said.
The global prevalence of mu, however, among sequenced Covid-19 cases has fallen below 0.1%. But WHO said that its prevalence has “consistently increased” in Colombia and Ecuador, where it is now causing close to 39% and 13% of infections, respectively.
Reports on the variant’s prevalence should be “interpreted with due consideration” given the low sequencing capacity of most countries, the agency said.
Though research would be needed to confirm this, WHO warned that Mu has a number of mutations that suggest it could be more resistant to vaccines.
Preliminary data show a reduced effectiveness of vaccines “similar to that seen for the beta variant,” the WHO said.