Ireland is the latest country to detect traces of the Mu and Lambda variants of the coronavirus after they were placed under the World Health Organisation's (WHO) list of 'variants of interest.'
11 cases detected in Ireland
Though the Delta variant remains the dominant strain accounting for more than 90% of all newly acquired infections on both sides of the border, six cases of the Mu variant have been discovered in Ireland.
The variant of interest was first found in Colombia in January of this year and was responsible for 40% of all infections in the South American country. It has since been found in more than 40 other countries worldwide. The WHO said:
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.
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%) and Ecuador (13%) has consistently increased. The epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly with the co-circulation of the Delta variant, will be monitored for changes.
A cause for concern?
The Lambda strain, which first originated in Peru, has infected 5 people in Ireland so far. Both new variants are cause for concern as they both carry mutations that could increase transmissibility and resistance to COVID vaccines.
The Lambda variant, in particular, has been found to lead to a more severe infection. However, very little evidence has directly shown either of the two strains to be able to bypass neutralising antibodies.