What is the Lambda Covid variant?

A NEW coronavirus variant that experts say is "deadlier" than the Delta strain has already ripped through 30 countries.

But what is the Lambda variant and where was it first discovered?

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Public Health England (PHE) states there are currently eight known cases of the C.37 variant, as of June 21.

The variant is currently classed as "under investigation" and experts could then classify it as "of concern" once they have done a risk assessment.

This will depend on how transmissible the variant is and how many cases have been detected.

Where has it come from?

The Malaysian Health Authority claims the variant comes from Peru, a country with one of the highest Covid mortality rates in the world.

Also known as C.37, the Lambda strain was first detected in Peru last year before quickly spreading to 30 countries, including Britain.

Of particular concern to virologists is the L452Q spike protein because of its potential to infect human cells like the L452R mutation in the highly infectious Delta variant.

Peruvian scientists noticed the variant in December when it accounted for “just one in every 200 samples”.

By March, that jumped to 50 per cent of cases. Now that figure is a whopping 82 per cent, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Is it more infectious?

The Delta variant is the reason the lifting of restrictions was pushed back in the UK and experts have warned that the Lambda variant could be even more infectious than that.

Pablo Tsukayama, a molecular scientist at the Cayetano Heredia university in Lima said the virus' rapid rise "would suggest its rate of transmission is higher than other variants".

In neighbouring Chile, it accounts for almost a third of cases, though scientists are unable to say which the strain is more transmissible.

Eight cases have already been reported in the UK – all of which were linked to overseas travel.

 

The World Health Organisation classified Lambda as a global Variant of Interest on 14 June.

WHO said it has mutations that increases transmissibility.

"So far we have seen no indication that the lambda variant is more aggressive," the WHO virologist Jairo Mendez-Rico told German news outlet DW.

"It’s possible that it has a higher rate of contagion but more work needs to be done on it."

He added: "It is likely that SARS-CoV-2 will become more transmissible throughout the course of its evolution but not necessarily more damaging to the host."

Will the vaccines work?

There are three vaccines currently being rolled out across the UK, the Pfizer/BioNTech. the Oxford/AstraZeneca and the Moderna.

Over 45.7 million Brits have had a first dose, with 33.6 million now having had two doses.

It was recently found that vaccines were less effective against the Delta variant.

It is not yet known for sure how effective jabs will be against the Lambda variant.

 

Chilean researchers found the variant could be resistant to Covid vaccines.

Experts at the University of Chile who studied the virus in local healthcare workers who received two doses of China's CoronaVac jab say Lambda is more infectious than the Brazilian and UK mutations.

"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,” they wrote in a paper yet to be peer reviewed.

"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." 

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