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What you need to know about the Mu COVID-19 variant

5 On Your Side spoke to three infectious disease doctors in St. Louis to dissect information about Mu

ST. LOUIS — You may have heard recently there's a new variant of COVID-19.

The World Health Organization says Mu is now the fifth variant of interest.

It was first discovered in South America back in January and it's made its way to 49 states and 42 countries.

RELATED: World Health Organization tracking new COVID-19 variant 'Mu' with potential to evade immunity

A sample of the variant is also labeled as B.1.621.

5 On Your Side spoke to three infectious disease doctors in St. Louis to dissect information about Mu.

Just recently, the World Health Organization labeled it as a variant of interest.

This means it could be more resistant to certain antibodies such as monoclonal antibodies or vaccines.

Variants that fall under this "interest" category are those identified to cause either significant community transmission or multiple COVID clusters across several countries, according to the WHO. Plus, there needs to be an increase in prevalence and number of cases over time.

But there isn't enough clinical data yet.

Dr. Rachel Presti, Washington University infectious disease specialist said, "We aren't not seeing the Mu variant increasing in numbers of people vaccinated."

More studies are still needed on the Mu strain to see if it's more contagious, more deadly or more resistant to current vaccines and treatments.

What's probable though? Your symptoms being similar to the ones by other variants. 

"I think we can assume the usual symptoms that we've been dealing with the other strains also hold true here," Mercy's chairman of the Department of Medicine Dr. Farrin Manian said. 

Currently, Mu doesn't make up a lot of the cases, as Dr. Wail Hayajneh, SLUCare Pediatric infectious disease specialist at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, explained. 

"This new variant called Mu variant is accounting for two cases in 1,000 patients," Dr. Hayajneh said. "We don't think it's going to be dominant in the near future."

This is unlike the Delta variant, a competitor that isn't budging.

"Mu seems to not be able to outperform Delta in its transmission so far," Dr. Manian said. "In the US, all 99% percent of all the strains are still Delta. The Mu strain doesn't keep me up at night like the Delta strain does." 

To avoid more mutations from happening, Dr. Presti said it's important to make an effort to stop it.

"If we let it and continue to replicate, we've given it more opportunities to figure out a way around the vaccine. The virus is going to take advantage of opportunities that we give it," she said. 

Even with different variants, there's one fighting tool that stays the same.

"All the variants that we know are responding to the vaccine," Dr. Hayajneh said.

For now, Mu is something that's not an immediate threat, but the World Health Organization is still keeping an eye on it.

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