Just when you thought that things couldn’t get any worse, WHO goes and declares a new SARS-CoV-2 variant.
It seems like things were going smoothly (too smoothly…) for a few months with no new news of another SARS-CoV-2 variant. But it seems like those days are gone as the World Health Organization has just added a new SARS-CoV-2 variant in their official tracking list. The new variant is labeled with the Greek alphabet “Mu” and has already been detected in around 40 countries around the world.
The Mu variant was first detected in Colombia at the start of 2021 and was initially labeled as B.1.621. This particular variant has been related to 39% of sequenced cases in the country and 13% in Ecuador. But for now, it hasn’t been detected in great amounts in other countries so we’re all safe…for now.
According to WHO in its latest report, “The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape. Preliminary data presented to the Virus Evolution Working Group show a reduction in neutralization capacity of convalescent and vaccine sera similar to that seen for the Beta variant, but this needs to be confirmed by further studies.”
WHO’s Advisory Group on Viral Evolution has three different methods of classifying new SARS-CoV-2 variants. B.1.621 was designated the “Alert for Further Monitoring” tier in May in which a variant is suspected to show “evidence of phenotypic or epidemiological impact” and is further monitored. This was changed to a “Variant of Interest” on 30th August and officially given a Greek Alphabet character title. The last stop of this three-tier system is the “Variant of Concern” and let’s just hope it doesn’t reach that.
This is the twelfth classification of a variant to receive a Greek Alphabet designation out of which four variants are the most problematic ones and we know them as: Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. The remaining eight are the Variants of Interest out of which 3 have been recently downgraded so now only five remain and include: Eta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda and Mu. At the rate new variants are being introduced, it seems like WHO will run out of Greek Alphabets soon and will have to move on to stars or constellations for naming the variants.