COVID-19 REINFECTION

WHO is monitoring new coronavirus variant called 'Mu'

First identified in Colombia in January, Mu has been classified as a "variant of interest" by the WHO.
First identified in Colombia in January, Mu has been classified as a "variant of interest" by the WHO. AFP - LEONARDO MUNOZ

The World Health Organization says it’s monitoring a new coronavirus variant named Mu, which may be resistant to vaccines.

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First identified in Colombia in January, Mu has been classified as a "variant of interest" by the global health body.

"The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape," the WHO said Tuesday in its weekly pandemic bulletin.

“There have been a few sporadic reports of cases of the Mu variant, and some larger outbreaks have been reported from other countries in South America and in Europe.”

The WHO added that further studies were needed to better understand the variant, which is scientifically known as B.1.621.

With global coronavirus infection rates climbing as a result of the highly contagious Delta variant, there is widespread concern over the emergence of new virus mutations. 

The five variants now deemed to be of concern by the WHO are Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Mu.

New South African strain

Meanwhile scientists in South Africa have also detected a new variant with multiple mutations, but have yet to determine whether it is highly contagious or resistant to vaccines.

Known as C.1.2, that variant was first detected in May and has now spread to seven other countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania.

However research on the variant has yet to be peer-reviewed.

On Friday WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were to launch the WHO’s Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence.

The health body said it would be a place for global collaboration, where experts from countries could “prepare, detect and respond” to future pandemic and epidemic risks.

In a post on Twitter, Ghebreyesus said Germany had been a strong supporter of the WHO and of global health.

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