Lambda, the most recent version to be identified by the World Health Organization, has now been discovered in at least 27 countries.
It is particularly common in South America, having first arrived in Peru in August of last year, and is now responsible for an increasing number of cases in these nations.
The World Health Organization said the variant’s mutations could increase its transmissibility or possibly increase its resistance to “neutralizing antibodies.” The health body called Lambda, or C.37, a “variant of interest.”
“So far we have seen no indication that the lambda variant is more aggressive,” Jairo Mendez-Rico, a WHO virologist, told the Deutsche Welle. “It is possible that it may exhibit higher infection rates, but we don’t yet have enough reliable data to compare it to gamma or delta.”
Lambda, previously known as C.37, was originally discovered in Peru in December 2020.
It has since spread to 29 nations, including seven in South America. Lambda was responsible for nearly 80% of COVID-19 cases in Peru in April and May of this year, with a large proportion of cases also occurring in Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador.
The World Health Organization designated Lambda as a ‘variant of interest’ on June 14 due to its widespread transmission in South America.
Different from other variants
The WHO has already identified 11 official SARS-CoV-2 mutations.
SARS-CoV-2 variations differ from one another due to alterations in its spike proteins, which are the virus’s components that allow it to penetrate human cells
For example, the Delta variety discovered in India includes two important spike protein changes — T478K and L452R — that make it easier for it to infect cells and avoid the immune system.
According to Jeff Barrett, head of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the UK, it’s difficult to “make sense of the threat from lambda, using computational and lab data, because it has a pretty distinctive combination of mutations, compared to other variants.”
The most widely used vaccines in Western countries still appear to provide adequate protection against the extremely contagious delta form, which was first discovered in India and has since spread to over 90 other countries.