HOUSTON – Doctors at Houston Methodist Hospital have discovered cases of a new variant of COVID-19 among patients being treated for the virus, the hospital confirmed Monday to KPRC 2.
The World Health Organization last week identified the “Mu” variant as a “variant of interest.”
Since the designation, doctors at Houston Methodist confirmed cases of the Mu variant in roughly 50 patients.
“We had our first case of Mu back in May,” said Dr. Wesley Long, medical director of diagnostic microbiology at Houston Methodist and a clinical pathologist.
Long said doctors didn’t refer to those cases as the so-called “Mu” variant until the World Health Organization designated the variant as such last week.
“Once the WHO declared that this would be the Mu variant, we went and looked and saw that we had had a few cases here and there dating back all the way till May,” Dr. Long said.
Researchers are still working to confirm Mu’s specific characteristics.
For one thing, early research, according to the WHO, shows mutations that have the potential to evade immunity provided by antibodies or vaccinations.
While that may be concerning, Long said it’s too early to tell for sure.
“These initial studies are being done in a laboratory. They’re being done in a Petri dish,” Long said. “The research comes from labs — not what truly may be seen in actual human cases. Although they’re concerning, at this point, again Delta is still the main variant we need to be concerned about. It’s 99% of what we’re seeing now at Houston Methodist and has been for many many weeks, at this point,”
Dr. Long stressed the Delta variant will remain the dominant variant for the foreseeable future. He also said variants naturally occur. The focus, according to Long, must remain on those COVID safeguards, which by now Houstonians should know well, including vaccinations.