Virus Expert at UNMC Says Mu Variant Something to Watch Closely

Sept. 8, 2021, 12:30 p.m. ·

Dr. Mark Rupp wearing a suit in an office with a bookcase, table and filing cabinets behind him.
UNMC infectious disease expert Dr. Mark Rupp. (Photo from Zoom)

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As Nebraska and most other states continue to fight off the delta variant of COVID-19, they’re also shifting their attention to a new threat, known as the Mu variant, which hasn’t officially made it to Nebraska yet.

Dr. Mark Rupp is the chief of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Division of Infectious Diseases and says the variant is making inroads.

“This is now a variant of interest because we’ve noticed it, we see it in the human population and we see it perhaps expanding in certain areas and so we want to keep a close eye on this and understand it better,” Rupp said.

The variant was first detected in Columbia early this year and has spread to around 40 countries. It’s also been detected in every other state except Nebraska, but Dr. Rupp said there’s no doubt it’s here.

“It may indicate that we have some gaps in our testing,” Dr. Rupp said. “Much of our testing is not done via PCR where we’re able to gain access to the strain or in labs that we’re able to get access to the strains where they can be sequenced and that will determine whether it is a mutant strain or not.”

There’s concern the Mu variant could be more easily transmissible and resistant to vaccines, but so far the vaccine makers say that’s not the case. Dr. Rupp thinks a world view of the virus is needed because mutations can originate anywhere and spread quickly.

“These viral variants can emerge in other parts of the world and we’ve seen that time and time again at this point,” Rupp said. “Every place that virus in circulating in humans, it’s a chance for these variants to occur.”

Rupp said it’s not unusual for viruses to mutate and most mutations are no more dangerous than the original virus.