Mu Variant: Fifth COVID-19 Strain Has Hallmarks Of Vaccine Resistance

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A new COVID-19 variant is on its way to becoming ubiquitous in the U.S. as it has now penetrated almost all states, according to the latest data from experts. And even though this new strain, called the mu variant, has the hallmarks of being vaccine-resistant, experts are not worried about it yet. 

What WHO Is Saying

The World Health Organization has designated the mu variant as a “variant of interest” and not a “variant of concern” because even though it has already reached almost every corner of the country, there is no solid evidence to show that it has spread to many people at an alarming rate. 

Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, who led the Moderna studies at UC College of Medicine, said scientists are still in the process of carefully monitoring the new variant to “see if it’s going to be one that causes more problems for people.”

Mu Variant Explained

The mu variant is the fifth strain of the novel coronavirus that was first detected in Columbia early this year. What makes the new strain a bit troubling is that it was found to have characteristics that could make it resistant to vaccines. 

Unlike WHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has yet to classify the new variant, most likely because it has struggled to gain a foothold against the more dominant and more infectious delta variant. Scientific data showed that the mu strain might have already peaked in the U.S. in mid-July when its cases reached about 1.5%. At present, less than 1% of cases are being attributed to the new variant, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Mu vs. Delta

WHO officials said Tuesday that the fast-spreading delta variant still remains to be the “most concerning” strain of SARS-CoV-2. Compared to the other strains, the delta variant has at least double the transmissibility. This was of course evident in how the delta strain managed to rapidly spread in at least 170 countries since it was first detected in October. 

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a press briefing last week that even though they are already paying attention to the mu variant and taking the new strain seriously, they don’t consider it an immediate threat for now. 

For Fichtenbaum, it’s all about survival of the fittest between the COVID-19 variants at this point. Whichever strain between the delta and mu variants outcompete and outnumber the other in terms of cases, that strain would be the focus of the war against COVID-19. But given the current data, he said that mu is unlikely to be a “variant of concern.”

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