WHO Analyzes New Coronavirus Variant Detected in Colombia

Scientists at the World Health Organization (WHO) are analyzing a new variant of the coronavirus, called “Mu”, first identified in Colombia in January, the organization said.

Variant B.1.621, according to scientific nomenclature, remains classified as a “variant of interest”, indicated the WHO in its weekly epidemiological bulletin on the evolution of the pandemic, published in the evening from Tuesday to Wednesday.

The variant has mutations that could indicate resistance to the vaccines and more studies are needed to understand its characteristics, the organization explained.

All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, which causes covid-19, mutate over time, and most have little or no impact on virus characteristics.

However, some mutations can affect the properties of the virus and influence, for example, its ability to spread, the severity of the disease it causes or the effectiveness of vaccines, drugs or other measures to combat it.

The emergence in 2020 of variants that presented an aggravated risk to global public health led WHO to characterize them as “of concern” or “concerning” in order to prioritize surveillance and research activities at the global level.

The entity adopted the letters of the Greek alphabet to name the variants, thus facilitating their identification for the non-scientific public and avoiding the stigmatization associated with the country of origin.

Four of the variants were classified by the WHO as “worrying”, including Alpha and Delta, while another five were classified as “of interest”, such as Mu.

The Mu variant was first detected in Colombia last January and has since been found in other countries in South America and Europe.

“Although the overall prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently less than 0.1%, its prevalence in Colombia (39%) and Ecuador (13%) has steadily increased,” noted WHO.