Doctors push vaccinations as researchers keep close eye on new COVID-19 variants

Posted at 6:45 AM, Sep 08, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — Researchers are closely watching for new COVID-19 variants in the United States as the Mu strain spreads around the country.

"There’s a Lambda, there’s a Gamma, there’s a Mu and we’re not sure how they’re going to behave,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson, professor of public health, medicine, and pharmacy for the University of South Florida Health.

These are some of the newer COVID-19 variants researchers are keeping a close eye on.

“There could be something next. We have called this the novel coronavirus for a reason. It’s like nothing we’ve quite seen before,” said Wolfson.

Besides the Delta strain, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent consider Gamma to be a variant of concern in the United States. The CDC says it was first identified in Japan and Brazil.

TheWorld Health Organization is now monitoring the Mu strain, which was first identified in Colombia, as a variant of interest because some researchers believe it carries mutations that could help partially evade vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments.

WHO says Lambda is also a variant of interest. It was first documented in Peru.

“These new variants kind of appear just as the one the behind it has established some degree of herd immunity or has begun to affect a large number of the population. Just when you think it’s gone, another one sneaks up on you,” said Wolfson.

Federal officials say they’re closely monitoring the Mu variant as cases have been detected around the country.

Some researchers believe this strain could be even more transmissible than the Delta variant.

“We still don’t know and all of many colleagues around the country are saying the same thing. We think we’re seeing how it’s behaving but we’re not sure what’s going to happen next,” said Wolfson.

This is one of the reasons why doctors have been pushing people to get vaccinated. Health experts believe the vaccines will offer some type of protection for coming strains.

“We know that there may be future surges and getting as many people vaccinated as we possibly can is the thing that’s going to help us. Not only now but definitely in the future to handle what may be coming,” said Dr. Laura Arline, Chief Quality Officer for BayCare Health System.

Federal health officials say right now they are taking the Mu strain seriously, but don’t consider it immediately dangerous since the Delta variant still accounts for more than 99% of COVID-19 cases in the United States at this point.