A NEW Covid variant that could be resistant to vaccines has infected over 50 people in the UK and is now spreading across the US.
The Mu variant – known as B.1.621, was last week labelled as a 'variant of interest' by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Data from Public Health England (PHE) shows that the variant is thought to be most prevalent in London, where 23 cases have been detected.
But not all of the UK has yet been exposed to Mu, with the West Midlands and the North East not yet reporting any cases of the variant.
PHE says that there have so far been 53 cases of the variant in the UK, whereas data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) states there have been 55.
However, data on cases isn't always 100 per cent accurate as not every case goes through genetic sequencing – which is why there could be a slight difference between WHO and PHE figures.
Seven cases have been detected in the East of England and six have also been detected in the South East.
The East Midlands, the North West, Scotland and an 'unknown region' have all reported three cases.
PHE today told the MailOnline that it 'was not concerned' about the variant.
Mu was first identified in Colombia in January and has now spread to 39 countries. Infections have been recorded in South America and Europe.
Around 2,314 cases of the variant have been detected in the US, according to WHO data.
This is of the 5,278 that have been found worldwide.
Of the 2,314 cases in the US, 399 have been detected in California.
The WHO said: "Although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1 per cent, the prevalence in Colombia (39 per cent) and Ecuador (13 per cent) has consistently increased.
"Since its first identification in Colombia in January 2021, there have been a few sporadic reports of cases of the Mu variant and some larger outbreaks have been reported from other countries in South America and in Europe.
"The epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly with the co-circulation of the Delta variant, will be monitored for changes."
It is not yet clear whether or not the variant will evade vaccines but certain changes in its genetics can influence how fast it spreads, the severity of disease and immunity.
A number of variants have been shown to weaken vaccine efficacy, including Delta, first seen in India and dominant in the UK.
The Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs give at least 90 per cent protection against hospitalisation from Delta. However, protection from infection is more in the 60-70 per cent range.
Delta has also been among the fastest-spreading strains, causing chaos in countries that were previously able to suppress the virus, like Australia.
The spread of the Mu variant comes as it was today warned that Britain could face a 'firebreak' lockdown at October half term as a 'last resort'.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi refused to rule out the return of some restrictions during the Autumn half-term to get the virus under control.
But he expressed hopes a successful booster jabs campaign will help the UK avoid a full shutdown which would be "the worst thing we can do".
He said that will mean the country can "continue, I hope, on a one-way street of keeping the economy open without having to regress into other non-pharmaceutical interventions."
A government spokesman confirmed there are "contingency plans" in place but insisted they "would only be re-introduced as a last resort to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS".
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