WHO: Mu variant could partially evade the antibodies we get from vaccination.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), this week, has named a new ‘variant of interest’ of coronavirus named ‘Mu variant’. It is said to be found in Columbia in January 2021 and has also been detected in about 39 other countries so far. As per the findings (as quoted in the Indian Express), Mu has changes, called mutations. It means that this variant might do away some of the protection we get from COVID vaccines. But the good news here is, despite being here around since January this year, it doesn’t outcompede Delta, which is a dominant variant across most of the world. If Mu was truly a dangerous variant, people would have started witnessing indications of that. But thankfully, we haven’t yet.
All you need to know about a variant of interest?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a variant of interest as a “specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding, reduced neutralisation by antibodies generated against previous infection or vaccination, reduced efficacy of treatments, potential diagnostic impact, or predicted increase in transmissibility or disease severity”. So, let’s say if there are changes to the virus, it means it has the potential to cause more harm and that way we can name it a ‘variant of interest’. Mu has mutations that might have some of these properties. But still, evidence is still emerging around this new variant. Eta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda are the four other variants of interest.
Will it evade the protection we get from covid vaccines?
So, here is how the covid vaccines work. The vaccines generally target the ‘spike protein’ of the virus which enters into the cells of our body. Vaccines expose our bodies to the part of the virus, commonly the spike protein, which helps our immune system to learn to fight with the virus as it encounters it. But in case, a variant shows significant changes in the spike protein, then it may decrease the effectiveness of the vaccine, hence evading the protection we get from vaccination. The WHO has reportedly said that the preliminary evidence suggests the “Mu variant could partially evade the antibodies we get from vaccination”. But since the data is from lab studies, we are still not sure how the variant will affect the population. More research needed to be done to learn about its behaviour in humans. The good news here is that our vaccines currently protect us well against all the symptomatic infection and severe disease from all variants of the virus.