From mu to C.1.2, here are the latest coronavirus variants scientists are watching closely

A health-care worker administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to a woman in Johannesburg on Aug. 20. Scientists in that country first detected a new C.1.2 variant there in May. (Sumaya Hisham/Reuters)

Scientists have warned the coronavirus will keep evolving as it spreads around the world, and there are now multiple new variants being watched closely by global research teams.

One of those, B.1.621, also known as mu, has been dubbed the latest variant of interest by the World Health Organization (WHO). Another, C.1.2, is the subject of headline-making new research exploring how it behaves. Other variants are likely waiting in the wings, yet to be detected.

So why do these new variants matter, what are they capable of, and how much should Canadians care?

Right now, the highly-contagious delta variant — deemed a variant of concern by the WHO back in May — is dominating Canada’s COVID-19 cases, making up more than 90 per cent of reported recent infections according to federal data.

But that doesn’t mean other emerging variants don’t warrant close observation. 

“Looking at this virus, it’s obvious that we will have new variants,” said Alyson Kelvin, a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan. 

“What we need to do is to be ready for identifying cases … as well as other variants that are inevitably going to start emerging around the world.” 

Read more from CBC Health’s Lauren Pelley and Adam Miller on what Canadians need to know about the latest variants scientists are watching closely.