There is a new COVID-19 variant, and we are here to tell you everything you need to know about it & whether you should be worried about it?
Meet The ‘Mu’ Variant
Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) named a new ‘variant of interest’ of the coronavirus, called the Mu variant. It was first found in Colombia in January 2021, and it has been identified in over 40 countries. Mu was officially termed as B.1.621, and it is the fifth ‘variant of interest’ to be monitored by WHO since March 2020.
WHO warned that it “has a constellation of mutations” that suggest that it may be more resistant to vaccines, while it stressed that more research would be required to confirm this. E484K, N501Y, and D614G are important mutations in Mu, and these mutations have been associated with increased transmissibility and decreased immunological protection.
Variant Of Interest
Before we move forward, we need to understand what a variant of interest is. The WHO’s variant of interest designation means the strain has the below characteristics:
· Genetic changes that are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics like transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape, diagnostic or therapeutic escape.
· The variant has been identified to cause significant community transmission or multiple COVID-19 clusters, in multiple countries, with increasing relative prevalence alongside rising number of cases over time.
· The variant may have other apparent epidemiological impacts to suggest an emerging risk to global public health.
More About The Variant
Experts believe that the ‘Mu variant’ isn’t an immediate threat. Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, as mentioned by AARP, “We take everything like that seriously, but we don’t consider it an immediate threat right now.”
On the other hand, the variant’s mutations could become problematic. John O’Horo, M.D., a critical care and infectious disease specialist at Mayo Clinic, said, as mentioned by AARP, some of the viral mutations are around the spike protein, and this feature allows the coronavirus to enter the cells in the body, and cause an infection. Any mutations in the spike protein could affect the ability of the antibodies to do their job.
Should We Be Worried?
There were signs that the pandemic would recede in 2020, while the world was slowly recovering and coming back to normal. However, the Delta variant triggered the next wave in most countries, leading to a rise in cases. So, will the ‘Mu variant’ become the next Delta? Even though Mu might be the dominant variant in Colombia, Fauci said, as mentioned by AARP, it’s “not at all even close to being dominant,” in the U.S.
Anna Durbin, M.D., director of the Center for Immunization Research and a professor in the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health told, as mentioned by AARP, “Whether or not the mu variant could compete with delta, we just don’t know.” Durbin added, “…for today, I’m confident that the vaccines would induce high protection against even mu.”
In The End
On Sunday, Finland reported its very first case of the Mu variant, showing how the variant is spreading quickly. It might not be an immediate threat, but we must be extremely cautious since India is trying it best to avoid a third wave.
So, what can be done? Dr. William Schaffner, M.D., professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center told Medical News Today, “…vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. All of the major variants [originated in] international venues beyond the borders of the United States, so we’d like to vaccinate as many people here at home, so we don’t generate our own variant, but we also have to extend our vaccinations around the world.”
At the end of the day, several variants are being identified in different parts of the world, and it looks like new variants will be continued to be found in the future as well. However, the best possible way to stop new variants from ever being formed is by vaccinating everyone. Vaccinations must be accelerated so that we can stop the formation of new variants. On the other hand, it is also important that vaccines reach the poor countries as well so that we can all defeat the pandemic together. Because that is the only way we can end the pandemic and go back to how life was before COVID-19.