Mu variant of covid: what you need to know about new mutation that worries the world

  • Luke O’Neill
  • The Conversation*

Virus genomic sequencing

Credit, Getty Images

Photo caption,

Genomic sequencing showed an advance of Mu in Colombia and in countries like Ecuador, but the variant still represents only 0.1% of the cases sequenced worldwide

The World Health Organization (WHO) has added a new variant of the coronavirus to its watch list. It is called the Mu variant, classified as a variant of interest (VOI). What this term means is that Mu has genetic differences from other known variants and is causing infections in several countries, therefore, it may pose a specific threat to public health.

It is possible that genetic alterations of the Mu variant could make it more transmissible, responsible for more serious diseases and better able to escape the immune response driven by vaccines or infection with other variants. This, in turn, can make the variant less susceptible to treatments.

Note the word “may”. A variant of interest (VOI) is not a variant of concern (VOC), which is a variant that has been proven to acquire one of these traits, making it more dangerous. Mu is being closely monitored to see if it should be reclassified as a VOC. We have to hope not.

There are four other VOIs being monitored by WHO — Eta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda — but none of them have been reclassified as a VOC. This can also happen with Mu, but you have to wait for more data.