Yet another COVID-19 variant is sparking concern among scientists, as the lambda variant has been detected in 29 nations. It accounts for 82% of new infections in Peru, where the variant was first detected, and it is rapidly spreading among other countries.
The lambda COVID variant is extremely transmissible. Experts believe “its rate of transmission is higher than any other variant,” according to Professor Pablo Tsukayama of Peru’s Cayetano Heredia University. Scientists are keeping careful tabs on lambda, with the World Health Organization officially labeling it as a “variant of interest” on June 17.
Despite comparisons to other strains of COVID-19, scientists say they don’t yet know enough about lambda to weigh it against the better-known alpha or delta variants. While some experts believe it may be the most transmissible variant we’ve yet seen, others are more hesitant to label it as such.
“So far we have seen no indication that the lambda variant is more aggressive,” WHO virologist Jairo Mendez-Rico told WebMD. “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.”
The lambda COVID variant has a strong foothold in Latin America, where it has spread rapidly among eight countries. It has also made its way to Europe and Australia. Six cases of lambda were reported in the U.K. on July 5, a worrying detail considering the nation’s recent easement of COVID restrictions.
Research additionally indicates that the currently approved vaccines may not be as effective against the lambda COVID variant, according to a report from scientists at the University of Chile in Santiago.
“Our data show for the first time that mutations present in the spike protein of the lambda variant confer escape to neutralizing antibodies and increased infectivity,” the report reads.
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