LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- A UNLV wastewater surveillance program tells FOX5 that the Mu variant has been detected in throughout the Las Vegas Valley in August, and traces of it have been growing slowly.
The World Health Organization labels the Mu variant as a variant of "interest," concerned that several possible mutations could render vaccines less effective; the research is still out on the true impact of this latest strain.
"We started seeing mutations associated with Mu in June and July, and then in August, we started seeing a little bit more-- nothing like Delta," said Dr. Edwin Oh of The UNLV Neurogenetics and Precision Medicine Lab.
The lab has been detecting variants in sewage samples across the valley since the spring, and first alerted health authorities to the possibility of hundreds of U.K. variant cases; at the time, there were only a handful announced by local health authorities.
Oh alerted health authorities earlier this summer, as he described an "explosion" of traces of Delta variants in May and June. Nevada hit its surge in July and August.
The technology analyzes sewage or "human waste," and scientists can trace the COVID-19 virus in samples, even if individuals are not known to be sick just yet. The samples can predict where there are hotspots of cases in the valley.
According to the Nevada State Lab, Mu had already been detected in Nevada on April 27, first discovered in Clark County. The state has tracked 41 cases, 28 of which have been in Clark County.
"Infectious agents compete with one another... Delta has outpaced this particular virus," said Dr. Mark Pandori, head of the state lab, who said the Mu variant simply "didn't win" in spreading across Nevada-- for now.
Dr. Pandori said that all mutations pose a greater risk than ever for the unvaccinated.
"The virus replicates more in unvaccinated individuals, it replicates longer... it replicates faster in unvaccinated individuals. Vaccination doesn't only protect you, it keeps you out of the hospital," Dr. Pandori said.