- Dr. Antony Fauci says he is “keeping a very close eye on the Mu variant.”
- The variant has been detected in every US state except Nebraska.
- However, Fauci says the Mu variant is not an “immediate threat” at the moment, because Delta is still the dominant variant.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says he is “keeping a very close eye on the Mu variant,” a strain of COVID-19 that the World Health Organization (WHO) says could have the potential to circumvent the immune defenses of people who are vaccinated or were previously infected with the virus.
“We certainly are aware of the Mu variant. We’re keeping a very close eye on it,” said Fauci at a September 2 news briefing.
However, Fauci said, US health authorities do not consider the Mu variant “an immediate threat” right now, adding that the contagious Delta variant remains the dominant and deadly variant in the US.
Mu, or the B.1.621 variant, was first detected in Colombia in January this year. It was added to the WHO’s watch list on August 30. In its weekly bulletin, the WHO said it found that the variant possesses “a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” but added that further studies would need to be done on the variant to find out more about how it affects people.
Fauci acknowledged the WHO’s message that the variant may be able to evade certain antibodies but encouraged more people to get vaccinated.
“Not to downplay it, we take it very seriously, but remember, even when you have variants that do diminish somewhat the efficacy of vaccines, the vaccines still are quite effective against variants of that type,” he said.
Insider reported on September 4 that the variant was detected in 47 states and the District of Columbia. But at press time, the only state that has not seen at least one instance of a Mu variant-related COVID-19 infection is Nebraska, according to data from epidemiology and genomic database Outbreak.info.
The news that the Mu variant has found its way into more states comes just as the US crossed the 40 million COVID-19 infection mark on September 5, per The New York Times.
Separately, Fauci told CNN on Sunday that the US is now “perilously close in certain areas of the country” to having full occupancy in intensive care units, when “tough choices” might have to be made to decide who gets an ICU bed.