New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Amid the concerns over the potential third wave of the deadly COVID-19 which has so far claimed more than 45 lakh lives and afflicted nearly 22 crore people worldwide, the World Health Organisation on Tuesday said that it is monitoring a new variant of the deadly coronavirus known as 'Mu'. According to the WHO, the Mu variant was first detected in Colombia in January 2021.

Scientifically known as B.1.621, the Mu variant of COVID-19 has been classified as a 'variant of interest' by the WHO. The WHO said the variant has mutations that indicate a risk of resistance to vaccines and stressed that further studies were needed to better understand it. "The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape," the global health body said Tuesday in its weekly pandemic bulletin.

There is widespread concern over the emergence of new virus mutations as infection rates are ticking up globally again, with the highly transmissible Delta variant taking hold -- especially among the unvaccinated -- and in regions where anti-virus measures have been relaxed. All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19, mutate over time and most mutations have little or no effect on the properties of the virus.

But certain mutations can impact the properties of a virus and influence how easily it spreads, the severity of the disease it causes, and its resistance to vaccines, drugs and other countermeasures. The WHO currently identifies four Covid-19 variants of concern, including Alpha, which is present in 193 countries, and Delta, present in 170 countries.

Five variants, including Mu, are to be monitored. After being detected in Colombia, Mu has since been reported in other South American countries and in Europe. The WHO said its global prevalence has declined to below 0.1 percent among sequenced cases. In Colombia, however, it is at 39 per cent.

Other variants monitored by the WHO:

The five variants of interest are:

Eta, first detected in multiple countries in December 2020

Iota, first detected in the US in November 2020

Kappa, first detected in India in October 2020

Lambda, first detected in Peru in December 2020

Mu, first detected in Colombia in January 2021

The four variants of concern, which are considered as having the potential to make the pandemic worse, are:

Alpha, first detected in the UK in September 2020

Beta, first detected in South Africa in May 2020

Gamma, first detected in Brazil in November 2020

Delta, first detected in India in October 2020

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan