After Delta, Lambda Arrives as a ‘Variant of Interest’

The World Health Organisation designated Lambda variant as a ‘variant of interest’ last month. It is believed to be widely prevalent in Peru and has spread to 27 nations. After Delta, the Lambda Covid-19 variant has set the alarm bells ringing across Latin America and within the World Health Organisation (WHO). Lambda has particularly puzzled scientists because of its “unusual” set of mutations. The Lambda variant, scientifically known as C.37, was first found in Peru in December 2020 and has since spread to 27 nations, including the UK.

The WHO designated the Lambda variant as a ‘variant of interest’ last month. The variant is believed to be widely prevalent in Peru. The Public Health England has categorised it as a ‘variant under investigation’ after the country last week reported six cases of Lambda variant. In December, Lambda variant was present in one in every 200 samples but in March it accounted for 50 per cent of samples in its capital Lima. The number has now risen to 80 per cent, The Financial Times quoted Pablo Tsukayama, a doctor in molecular microbiology at the Cayetano Heredia University, as saying. The WHO’s estimate also suggests that Peru has 82 per cent of Covid-19 cases that are associated with Lambda variant and that this variant has the highest Covid-19 mortality rate.

The virus has spread to neighbouring Chile, where about a third of new Covid-19 cases are associated with the Lambda variant. Experts, however, disagree that Lambda is more aggressive than others, saying that this variant needs to be studied in detail to understand its high infection rate. The health authorities in the UK are still investigating the variant, but there is no information about its transmissibility and symptoms.

The country’s National Health Service has said symptoms normally associated with any other variant of coronavirus like fever, loss of smell and taste, among others, are likely to be associated with Lambda variant as well. Besides, there is no evidence so far that suggests that the Lambda variant is prevalent in India. Delta variant (B.1.617) was found largely prevalent in India and is believed to be the main reason behind the second wave witnessed in the country.

More than 60 per cent of cases in Maharashtra in February 2021 pertained to Delta variants. The health ministry recently classified Delta Plus (B.1.617.2) as a variant of concern. The variant has increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells and potentially reduces monoclonal antibody response.

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