PANDEMIC – The health institution is keeping an eye on this new strain of Covid-19 which presents mutations that could indicate a risk of « immune escape ».
With each new variant, the same worry. The World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring a new strain of the coronavirus, dubbed « Mu », which was first detected in Colombia in January. This is what the institution indicated on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. Its code name: B.1.621. For now, this variant has been classified as « variant to follow, » said the WHO in its weekly epidemiological bulletin on the evolution of the pandemic. But what do we know about this new mutation?
The WHO specifies that the variant has mutations that could indicate a risk of » immune escape » – in other words resistance to vaccines. However, the Geneva-based institution stresses that further studies are needed to better understand its characteristics. All viruses, including the SARS-CoV-2 responsible for Covid-19, mutate over time. Note that most mutations have little or no effect on the properties of the virus.
However, certain mutations can affect the properties of the virus and influence, for example, how easily it spreads, the severity of the disease it causes, or the effectiveness of vaccines, drugs, diagnostic tools or other social and public health measures.
The « Mu » variant detected in Latin America and Europe
The « Mu » variant was first recorded in Colombia in January. It has since been reported in other South American countries and in Europe. « Although the global 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, » the WHO explained. .
The appearance, at the end of 2020, of variants that presented an increased risk to global public health led the WHO to characterize variants to be monitored and variants of concern, in order to prioritize surveillance and research activities at the global level.