The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified a new SARS-Cov-2 variant which has been named Mu and was first detected in Colombia last January.
Since then, the strain has been found in other South American countries and Europe.
Technically, it was labelled B.1.621 and has been assessed to be a variant of interest, according to the WHO's weekly epidemiological bulletin published Tuesday.
The variant has mutations that could indicate a risk of immune escape or resistance to vaccines, and further studies will be required to understand its characteristics, the organization said.
All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, mutate over time, and most mutations have little or no impact on the characteristics of the virus. However, some mutations can affect the properties of the virus and influence, for example, its ability to spread, the severity of the disease or the effectiveness of vaccines.
”Although the global prevalence of the mu variant among sequenced cases has decreased and is currently less than 0.1%, its prevalence in Colombia (39%) and Ecuador (13%) has steadily increased,” the WHO noted.
WHO has rated Mu as a variant of interest. The organization uses Greek letters for new variants of interest and concern.
Some 4,500 people have been infected worldwide with the Mu variant, WHO COVID-19 Technical Director Maria van Kerkhove said on Twitter.
Regarding glocal COVID-19 cases, there were 4.4 million new detections reported in the week ending August 29, but cases only appear to be increasing in the Western Pacific region, where a 7% increase was reported last week.