New coronavirus variations are being found around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc. The more the virus spreads, the greater the chance a dangerous mutation will occur.
Scientists are concerned that a highly contagious variant of the Lambda strain sweeping Peru may be immune to vaccines.
Lambda, formerly known as C.37, was originally discovered in Peru in December 2020. Lambda was accountable for almost 80% of COVID-19 cases in Peru in April and May this year, with a large proportion of cases also occurring in Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador.
According to government estimates, the worrying strain has spread to over 30 nations, largely in Latin America, but also as far as the United Kingdom, where at least eight instances have been reported.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are no known cases of the Lambda strain in the United States.
According to research from Johns Hopkins University, Peru now boasts the world’s highest pandemic death rate.
The findings indicate that Lambda is more contagious than Gamma and Alpha, and that it is better able to evade vaccination antibodies.
“We observed an increased infectivity mediated by the lambda spike protein that was even higher than that of the D614G or the Alpha and Gamma variants,” the study stated.
The Lambda variant is one of 11 official SARS-CoV-2 variants recognised by the World Health Organization, reported the ABC.
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.
The Financial Times reports that Lambda has a unique pattern of seven mutations in the spike protein that the virus employs to infiltrate human cells.
The effect of Lambda on workers who had received two doses of China’s CoronaVac Vaccine was investigated in a study conducted 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,” wrote the researchers from the University of Chile in Santiago.
That could explain why it has been able to take hold despite Chile “undergoing a massive vaccination program,” the study warned, reported Ny Post.
“Considering that this variant has rapidly spread in Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina, we believe that Lambda has a considerable potential to become a variant of concern,” they concluded in the preprint paper that has yet to be peer-reviewed.
It contained a unique set of mutations, according to Jeff Barrett, director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom.
He said that one reason it was difficult to make sense of Lambda’s threat using computational and lab data was that it had an uncommon set of mutations compared to other variations.