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New Coronavirus Variant May Evade Vaccines

The World Health Organization is warning in its weekly epidemiological update on COVID-19 that a new variant called Mu – or B.1.621 – may have mutated to evade vaccines and natural immunity.

Photo Illustration: Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

“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 vaccinee sera similar to that seen for the Beta variant, but this needs to be confirmed by further studies,” the WHO wrote in the report, which was published on Tuesday.

Mu was first identified in Colombia in January and has since been detected in 39 other South American and European countries, the organization explained, noting that “although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1%, the prevalence in Colombia (39%) and Ecuador (13%) has consistently increased.”

Mu is the latest addition to the WHO’s “variants of interest” list, which is one step below “variants of concern” such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta.

Mu, however, is not the only version of the virus that has experts worried.

On Tuesday, scientists at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa issued an alert about the “C.1.2 lineage” of COVID-19.

C.1.2 “has since been detected across the majority of the provinces in South Africa and in seven other countries spanning Africa, Europe, Asia, and Oceana,” they said. Its mutations are similar to those of the highly contagious Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta SARS-COV-2 variants.



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