Potential Mu mutation ‘recipe for disaster’
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Potential Mu mutation ‘recipe for disaster’

WHO and the US said they are closely monitoring the new strain.

All viruses, including nCoV, mutate over time and most mutations have little or no effect on the properties of the virus, according to experts.

Mu, the fifth variant of concern tracked by WHO, said Dr. Vinod RMT Balasubramaniam, molecular virologist and senior lecturer at the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences at Monash University, Malaysia.

`Mu has mutations E484K and K417N, related to the ability to avoid antibodies. These two mutations have appeared in the Beta strain, so Mu may act similarly to Beta, reducing the effectiveness of

Data on Mu’s immune evasion ability is currently quite limited.

In addition, Mu also contains other mutations such as P681H, which first appeared in the Alpha strain with the ability to spread quickly, and two mutations R346K and Y144T, but their impact on this strain is unknown, according to Balasubramaniam.

`We really don’t know whether mutations in Mu increase the ability to infect and cause disease. But interesting reports about Mu have appeared,` he said.

Doctors take care of a Covid-19 patient at a hospital in Bogota, Colombia in May. Photo: AFP.

At the end of July, Local 10 television station in Florida, USA reported that 10% of gene sequencing samples at the University of Miami were of the Mu strain.

`The proportion of the Mu variant in global nCoV gene sequences is less than 0.1%. But it is continuously increasing in countries such as Colombia with 39% and Ecuador with 13%,` he said.

This molecular virology expert said that when looking at Mu’s `mutation cluster`, this strain contains a `recipe for disaster`, because it shows the risk of vaccine resistance.

Faced with the threat from new strains of nCoV, Dr. Balasubramaniam emphasized that the key to combating the risk of virus mutation is still global vaccination.

Experts from Monash University say that until the scientific community has a more comprehensive picture of the Mu mutation, countries must increase vigilance, tighten control, and increase testing, especially in the region.

Vaccination is currently seen as the solution to help the world return to normal life.

`Viruses need a susceptible host, be it a human or an animal, to thrive. Vaccines help prevent this,` Balasubramaniam said.

Experts fear that the slow vaccination campaign in many countries due to limited supply could create conditions for the virus to continue to spread and mutate more dangerously.

Dr. Balasubramaniam added that with the possibility of the virus becoming a seasonal disease, countries across the globe must consider living with the virus.

`Some countries around the world will find it difficult to continue extending the blockade, which is causing a serious impact on the economy,` he said.

Balasubramaniam recommended that governments only relax restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated, but tighten them for those who have not.

`Every time a virus proliferates in someone’s body, it will have a chance to mutate and new strains appear. It’s like playing a game of dice,` he emphasized.

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