WHO calls for action as Europe coronavirus cases rise
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The UK’s racing start to inoculation has proven fruitful, with 64 percent of the population now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. As the nation approaches herd immunity, however, there is evidence the virus has not yet succumb to the vaccine. Emerging strains now stand at the forefront of concerns, as they may carry mutations which could evade current immune defences. The Mu variant, which was recently labelled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation, is one of five strains which could thwart immunisation efforts. New reports suggest the variant may slowly be gaining ground in Europe, with 55 cases now reported in the UK, according to recent reports.
The COVID-19 mutation which is being monitored by the World Health Organisation has made its way to the UK.
A total of 55 cases have now been identified in England so far, the Evening Standard reported yesterday.
In a weekly pandemic bulletin, the WHO warned that the newly identified variant – known scientifically as B.1.621 – may be able to evade immunity people have developed from vaccination or past infection.
The WHO said that while the strain has mutations which suggests it could evade immunity arising from vaccination, further evaluations are needed to confirm this.
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Preliminary data suggests the variant could evade vaccine shield in a similar way to the Beta variant first discovered in South Africa.
One particular mutation the variant carries, P681H, is found in the Alpha variant first detected in Kent and has been linked to faster transmission.
Other mutations, including K417N and R484K, may help the virus thwart current vaccine shields.
A risk assessment of the Mu variant released by Public Health England (PHE) in August, highlighted laboratory analyses that suggest the variant is at least as resistant as the Beta variant to protection provided by the vaccine.
The variant was added to PHE’s list of variants under investigation in July.
The strain was first identified in Colombia in January 2021, where it currently accounts for 39 percent of COVID-19 cases.
While the variant makes up less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19 infections globally, it is gaining foothold in Ecuador, where it now accounts for 13 percent of cases.
The WHO announced the variant’s prevalence had consistently increased in Columbia and Ecuador, despite caseloads of the variant declining globally.
Cases of the variants have also been reported in Europe, the US and Hong Kong.
The UN agency said: “The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape.
“Since its first identification in Colombia in January 2021, there have been few sporadic reports of cases of the Mu variant and some larger outbreaks have been reported from other countries South America and in Europe.
“Although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has declined and is current below 0.1 percent, the prevalence in Colombia (39 percent) and Ecuador (13 percent) has consistently increased.
“The epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly with the co-circulation of the Delta variant, will be monitored for changes.”
The strain is one of five currently labelled “variants of concern” by the WHO.
COVID-19 variants Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta have all been monitored by the UN Agency since emerging.
It comes as the Boris Johnson said the UK needed to go “faster” to inoculate young people, after admitting they are a “very important group for potential transmission.”
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