The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that it has identified a new coronavirus "variant of interest" (VOI) known as "Mu" and the global health body is now monitoring it. 

Also known by its scientific name B.1.621, the new coronavirus variant was classified as a VOI on 30 August 2021 and given the WHO label 'Mu'. This includes the descendent Pango lineage B.1.621.1. This variant is known as 21H in Nextstrain nomenclature. 

According to WHO, 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.

'Mu' was first identified in Colombia in January 2021 and since then there have been a few reports of cases of the Mu variant, on irregular intervals & places and some larger outbreaks have been reported from other countries in South America and in Europe. 

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, said the WHO. 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 percent.

As of 29 August, over 4500 sequences (3794 sequences of B.1.621 and 856 sequences of B.1.621.1 ['Mu']) have been uploaded to GISAID from 39 countries. GISAID is a global science initiative and primary source established in 2008 that provides open-access to genomic data of influenza viruses and the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

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