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Now that we’re center through the Greek alphabet for allotment SARS-CoV-2 variants, it is bright that some are added awkward than others. Alone four so far accept aloft abundant anxiety to accreditation a World Health Organization ‘variant of concern’ appellation — Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta.
And now there’s a new one to add to the list: Mu, now categorized as a WHO alternative of interest.
Even admitting advice and abstracts on the Mu variant, clearly accepted as birth B.1.621, is scarce, we asked two experts in virology what it ability accept in abundance for us.
Medscape batten with Jesse Erasmus, PhD, administrator of virology at HDT Bio and acting abettor assistant at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, and Pedro Piedra, MD, assistant of atomic virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. The account has been edited for breadth and clarity.
The Mu alternative was aboriginal articular in Colombia, South America in January, so it’s been about for 8 or 9 months. Any abstraction why is it accepting added absorption now?
Dr Pedro Piedra
Piedra: Like with any new variant, already you see it articular or overextension about genitalia of the country, it’s article to booty apprehension of. One is seeing Mu, not in any aerial numbers or aerial percentages, but we are audition it in altered places throughout the United States. That makes it of interest.
Erasmus: What is best acceptable active the added absorption is the abstraction that we are attractive at mutations associated with variants that we already apperceive about, like Delta. It looks like Mu has mutations already in Delta but it additionally has mutations from Alpha or B.1.1.7, which was additionally accepted to be awful transmissible.
There’s this abstraction that if you booty a alteration from one alternative and amalgamate it with a alteration from another, you get a ‘super mutant’ virus that is activity to wreak havoc. Back in actuality that is not necessarily the case.
I would say at this point — wisely so — it’s a alternative of interest.
On the added hand, Mu has been articular in over 40 countries and 49 states — every accompaniment except Nebraska. Does that say article about transmissibility?
Dr Jesse Erasmus
Erasmus: That would depend. You should allocution to a genomic epidemiologist for a absolute answer. But these variants can appear via two altered pathways: One is a distinct antecedent of a new alternative that gets transmitted globally and it can be traced to a single, appearing event. In my appearance that is absolute unlikely.
The added book is ‘convergence evolution’ back the alternative emerges in multiple, abstracted instances. They conceivably accommodate some fettle to the virus. There can be assorted pathways through which a virus can access at this aggregate of mutations, which is apparently added likely.
Also, if it does accept an added amount of transmission, we would apprehend to see a college admeasurement of cases about to the Delta variant.
Piedra: I would say at this time it’s way too early. We absolutely charge to focus now on accepting over this fourth beachcomber of COVID, which is absolutely Delta-driven. It will be important, as this slows bottomward or this beachcomber comes to an end, to see which alternative will appearance up next.
Perhaps now that the citizenry is added allowed to that [Delta] virus, again addition alternative may appear up. Our citizenry is anytime changing, with altered accommodation of bodies vaccinated in a city, state, or the country. Again, the citizenry amnesty changes over time. That allowed burden helps to baddest a alternative for that accurate area.
Is there any reliable advice on Mu’s abeyant for vaccine evasion?
Erasmus: Mu has the E484K and the K417N mutations articular in the Beta variants. The Beta alternative is currently added immune-resistant than alike the Delta variant. So it’s absolutely a accurate hypothesis, and we’re still cat-and-mouse on added abstracts to confirm.
A album abstraction came out beforehand this anniversary and absolutely demonstrates that Mu is hardly added vaccine aggressive than the Beta variant.
When we allocution about vaccine escape, we accept to be absolute accurate to specify this is escape from infection, not from austere disease. Alike adjoin the best vaccine-resistant alternative out there, the vaccines still assure adjoin disease.
Since Mu has mutations from both the Delta and Beta variants, is that a acumen for concern?
Piedra: This raises the catechism of whether this alternative is activity to be added aggressive to antibodies generated by the vaccine.
That was consistently a above affair for the Beta lineage. But for whatever reason, it did not assume to be as fit as the Delta alternative in the US and worldwide. Delta replaced everything.
It goes to appearance you that, at a accurate time and at a accurate place, there is a alternative that seems to be a bigger fit [that is able to become dominant] because it is the absolute alternative at the absolute time.
The catechism is: Is the Mu alternative activity to be like that, and the acknowledgment is we don’t know. So we charge to accumulate clue of it and attending for the aboriginal signs of what will be the abutting beachcomber back it comes.
Is the genomic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 variants able-bodied abundant now in the US to accurately reflect the absolute prevalence of anniversary strain?
Erasmus: That’s a absolutely acceptable question. There are absolutely arguments that we could be accomplishing a bigger job. There are absolutely hot spots of absolute able genomic surveillance, like at Columbia, Yale, and actuality at the University of Washington. It is biased against areas that accept able-bodied genomic sequencing workflows.
Piedra: I anticipate one can consistently actuality accomplishing bigger and we can consistently accept added bounded data. But we are accomplishing abundant bigger than we were at the beginning.
A final but absolute important question: What is the appropriate way to accent Mu?
Erasmus: (laughs) The way I accent it is m’yoo.
Piedra: M’yoo. It’s the Greek letter Mu.
You can apprehend the accentuation here.
Piedra has no accordant banking relationships to disclose. Erasmus is an agent and actor of HDT Bio, a aggregation developing a COVID-19 vaccine.
Damian McNamara is a staff journalist based in Miami. He covers a advanced ambit of medical specialties, including communicable diseases, gastroenterology, and analytical care. Follow Damian on Twitter: @MedReporter.
For added news, chase Medscape on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Here’s how to accelerate Medscape a adventure tip.
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