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New COVID-19 (Lambda variant) strain found in 27 countries.

Image Credit: Fortune

Australia is the most recent country to detect a new COVID-19 strain among their population known as the Lambda variant. The variant also known as C.37 is believed to be more contagious than the Indian variant (Delta variant) which is currently sweeping a huge number of countries. The Delta variant also known as  B.1.617.2 is the dominant coronavirus variant in several countries like the United States, and is believed that it will be the dominant variant in other countries in the coming weeks. While the attention is all on the delta variant, the Lambda variant is spreading in Latin America and appearing in several other countries.

It has been detected in 29 countries and it is widespread in South America. The Lambda variant first appeared in Peru in August 2020. A total of 82% of the coronavirus case samples reported during May and June of this year in Peru are now due to the Lambda variant. It first appeared in the UK on June 25 when they recorded 6 cases of the Lambda variant, all from overseas travel. World Health Organization listed the variant as ‘variant of interest’ rather than ‘variant of concern’ so far. Variant of interest from WHO means that they view it as spreading in communities and has particular mutations predicted to have an effect on the viral characteristics, such as increased transmissibility.

According to Professor Pablo Tsukayama of Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, Peru said that the reason it spread so much in Peru is due to being more transmissible than any other variant.

Lambda has a unique pattern of seven mutations in the spike protein that the virus uses to infect human cells. Researchers are particularly intrigued by one mutation called L452Q, which is similar to the L452R mutation to contribute to the high infectiousness of the Delta variant.

Professor Pablo Tsukayama

Scientists at the University of Chile in Santiago released a report where they claimed that current vaccines may not be effective in neutralising the new strand.

Our data show for the first time that mutations present in the spike protein of the Lambda variant confer escape to neutralising antibodies and increased infectivity.

Pre-paper report published by Scientists at the University of Chile in Santiago

The effects of the variant on the vaccines is still theoretical and more studies are needed to back it up.

There is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective.

 Public Health England.

More details to follow.


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