Lambda Variant: All We Know About The Latest COVID-19 Variant

This Lambda variant originated in Peru and has been declared a variant of interest by the World Health Organisation.

Lambda, the latest COVID-19 variant of interest is prevalent in 30 countries and is becoming an increasing cause of concern across the world. While the world is still dealing with the rise in cases due to the Delta variant, this new variant is the reason behind the fresh increase in cases in European and American countries.

This variant has not been reported in India, yet.

The World Health Organisation labelled this mutation of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus as a "variant of interest" on June 14. Earlier only limited to some South American countries, this variant has now been reported in UK, France Israel, Germany.

While the Delta variant which was found in India has only three mutations in the Spike protein, the Lambda has close to seven mutations in the Spike. These mutations are why the WHO has declared this variant as a "variant of interest".

Further studies are required to assess the effect of this variant on vaccines as well as its transmissibility and severity. In Peru, where the variant originated, close to 80 per cent of the cases are due to this variant. Although classified as a variant of interest recently, this variant has been in circulation since 2020 in the South American country.

After Peru, the variant moved to neighbouring Chile and is driving the rise in COVID-19 cases in the country.

Researchers believe lambda could reduce the effect of vaccine-induced antibodies as Israel which had achieved close to full vaccination status has reported the presence of this mutation. According to the Malaysian health ministry, lambda could be deadlier than delta, but this needs to be further researched.

UK has reported six cases of the variant so far, and all of these were found in international travellers. While Public Health England has included this variant under its list of variants of investigation and is conducting laboratory assessments, it has also said that currently there is no evidence suggesting that the variant differs in severity or reduces the effectiveness of the vaccine.

So far, only one study conducted by researchers in Chile studies the lambda variant in detail. A recent study by researchers in Chile reported that the Lambda variant had greater infectivity than the Alpha (originated in UK) and Gamma (originated in Brazil) variants. The study also reported decreased effectiveness of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine (Coronavac) against the Lambda variant.

Lambda became the fourth variant of interest along with Eta, Iota, Kappa, while Alpha, Beta. Gamma, and Delta are variants of concern with evidence suggesting they affect vaccines and transmissibility.

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