Is Lambda B.1.1.1 dangerous? New Covid-19 variant may increase virus transmissibility

The Lambda variant of Covid-19 is listed as a 'variant of interest' by the WHO, which means it has been detected in many countries

                            Is Lambda B.1.1.1 dangerous? New Covid-19 variant may increase virus transmissibility
WHO highlighted a new variant of Covid-19 named Lamba, which was first detected in Peru (Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images)

The World Health Organization highlighted a new variant of Covid-19 named Lambda, which was first detected in Peru and has now been found in 29 countries so far. The virus, however, is most dominant in South American countries. It was first detected in Peru in August last year.

The Lambda variant has now found its way to Europe, which is already struggling with the Delta variant. The Lambda variant is listed as 'variant of interest' by the WHO and not 'variant of concern', which means it has been identified as causing transmission or detected in multiple countries. Scientists claim that this variant could have improved the transmissibility of the virus. Here's all you need to know about the new Covid-19 variant.


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Where is the Lambda variant dominant?

According to WHO, the Lambda variant accounted for about 81 per cent of the cases detected since April in Peru. While it is clearly dominant in Peru, it accounts for more than 31 per cent of the cases in Chile from May and June, reports say. Pan American Health Organization's Regional Advisor Jairo Mendez said that the variant is detected in eight countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, "but sporadically in most countries".

Could the Lambda variant improve the transmissibility of the virus?

Even as the study is still going on, experts have said that the new variant might have improved the transmissibility of the virus. However, since it's still in 'variants of interest' group, it will be closely monitored to see how fast it can spread before being added to the group of 'variants of concern' which includes the B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), B.1.427/29 (Epsilon). The Lambda variant lies within the B.1.1.1 lineage.

According to WHO, the lambda variant has multiple mutations in the spike protein that could have an impact on its transmissibility, but more studies are needed to fully understand the mutations. Speaking of the same, Jairo Mendez said, "It is possible that the transmission capability is increased. This is a phenomenon that is not well studied and documented, and we can't do a comparison between other variants such as Gamma and Delta."

Lambda variant in the UK

The Public Health England (PHE) recently reported that a handful of cases caused by Lambda were detected in the country. So far six cases have been detected between February 23 and June 7 and of these, five had been linked to overseas travel.

Is the Lambda variant resistant to the vaccine?

There have been mixed reports about the Lambda variant's reaction to the vaccine. Public Health England in the UK recognized the new variant as having "a potential increased transmissibility or possible increased resistance to neutralizing antibodies". However, PHE noted that more studies were needed. On the other hand, an NYU Grossman School of Medicine study that hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, suggested vaccines are effective against the Lambda variant. The study was published on July 3.

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