What is the Mu variant?
The Mu variant is a version of the coronavirus identified in Colombia in January 2021. It is among the other variants labelled ‘Variants of Interest (VOI)’ by the World Health Organization. Others in its category are:
- Eta variant – (discovered in several countries in December 2020)
- Iota variant – (discovered in the United States of America in November 2020)
- Kappa variant – (discovered in India in October 2020)
- Lambda variant – (discovered in Peru in December 2020)
Variants of Interest are so named because they possess genetic changes that may affect the virus characteristics. Thus, they can change its transmissibility, disease severity, and immune escape, diagnostic or therapeutic escape. Additionally, some may cause significant community transmission or multiple COVID-19 clusters.
Generally, they could have significant epidemiological features to become a risk to global public health.
However, since its discovery in January 2021, AP News says that the mu variant does not appear to be spreading quickly. “It accounts for fewer than 1% of COVID-19 cases globally. In Colombia, it may be responsible for about 39% of cases,” the news outfit said.
Here are five important facts to know about the Mu variant
- In September 2021, the United Nations reported that while only 0.1% of sequenced COVID-19 cases are Mu, its frequency has increased in Colombia and Ecuador. 39% of CIVID-19 cases in Columbia are caused by the Mu variant, while it is the cause of 13% of COVID infections in Ecuador.
- The UN also warns that the Mu variant may be ‘resistant to vaccines’ because of its possessing “a constellation of mutations”. It cites preliminary data showing reduced vaccine efficacy.
- The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says that these are the following countries where the Mu Variant has been detected as of 1 September 2021: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK. It has not been detected in Uganda yet.
- Also, the Mu variant is not yet a VOC (Variants of Concern), which means that it has not been demonstrated to be able to increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or decrease in the effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics. Thus, for now, you should be more concerned about the following variants:
Alpha (British), present in 193 countries
Beta (South African) reported in 141 countries.
Gamma (Brazilian) reported in 91 countries.
Delta (Indian), present in 170 countries.
- The WHO is still carrying out an assessment of the Mu variant characteristics and public health risks; coordinating laboratory investigations with Member States and partners reviewing the variant’s global epidemiology; and monitoring and tracking its global spread.
The consensus from international and local health authorities as well as US infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, is that the Mu variant ‘doesn’t seem to be circulating’ and while it is of interest, ‘it isn’t considered an immediate threat’.
What can you do?
It would help if you continued to observe safety regulations put in place by your local health authorities. Take the general safety measures like washing your hands, using hand sanitisers, wearing nose masks, social distancing and more.
It would be best to get tested to know your status and take the vaccine when available in your zone.