A new coronavirus variant named Mu could be more resistant to vaccines, the World Health Organisation has said.
B.1.621 (Mu) was first identified in Colombia and cases have been recorded in South America and Europe.
The WHO has designated Mu a variant of interest and said the strain had mutations suggesting it could be more resistant to Covid-19 jabs.
“The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” The WHO said in its weekly bulletin.
“Preliminary data presented to the Virus Evolution Working Group show a reduction in neutralisation capacity of convalescent and vaccinee sera similar to that seen for the Beta variant, but this needs to be confirmed by further studies.”
The WHO said the global prevalence of Mu among sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1%, but the prevalence in Colombia (39%) and Ecuador (13%) has consistently increased.
It added: “The epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly with the co-circulation of the Delta variant, will be monitored for changes.”
Meanwhile, South African scientists have also detected a new coronavirus variant with multiple mutations known as C.1.2, but are yet to establish whether it is more contagious or able to overcome the immunity provided by vaccines.