On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that it is tracking a new COVID-19 "variant of interest," and while the strain is nowhere near as widespread as other mutations, the organization says it is showing some signs of resistance to vaccines.
The mu variant is the fifth variant strain to earn the title of "variant of interest" from the WHO. Among the other variants tracked by the WHO is the delta variant — a mutant strain proven to be more contagious, leading to a fourth outbreak of the virus in the U.S.
In its weekly epidemiological update, the WHO warned that the mu variant is becoming "increasingly prevalent" in Colombia and Ecuador. The WHO's report says that mu now represents 39% of infections in Colombia and 13% of infections in neighboring Ecuador.
The agency also warned that mu has "a number of mutations that suggest it could be more resistant to vaccines," but they cautioned that "further research is needed" to confirm that the mu variant is resisting vaccinations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the mu variant is nowhere near as widespread in the United States as other COVID-19 strains. As of Thursday afternoon, the delta variant represented 99.1% of cases in the U.S, and the agency does not even list specific totals for cases of the mu variant.
Outbreak.info — a project led by Scripps Research — says the mu variant represents less than 0.5% of the cumulative presence of COVID-19 in the U.S. In every state but Alaska, mu represents less than 1% of cases.
The WHO said Tuesday that it would continue to monitor "the epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly with the co-circulation of the Delta variant…for changes."
During a White House COVID-19 response team briefing on Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the White House was monitoring the mu variant but didn't consider it an "immediate threat."
He noted that the mu variant "is not even close" to being the dominant strain in the U.S., and added that there is not yet a lot of clinical data yet supporting the theory that mu is more resistant to vaccines.
Editor's note: There is no relation between Scripps Research and the E.W. Scripps Company, which owns this television station.