Move over Delta variant, a newer and possibly deadlier mutation of the coronavirus known as the Lambda variant has been detected. Scientists and doctors are perturbed. Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative to the Philippines, in an interview to ABS-CBN news has called this variant as ‘a variant of concern.’
First detected in Peru in December last year, the new variant of coronavirus has been found in around 30 nations across the globe. This variant is now the cause of 81 per cent of all new coronavirus cases in Peru. It was designated a ‘variant of interest’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) on June 14 this year.
This C.73 strain of COVID-19 lies within B.1.1.1 lineage and is dominant in South America. Peru has reported 9 per cent, Ecuador 8%, and Argentina reported 3% cases of the new variant (per cent of total cases or percentage of Lambda cases by country). Other South American countries like Chile, Ecuador, Brazil have also reported cases of the Lambda variant.
This variant is not confined to the new world. Apart from South America, a few cases of Lambda variant have also been detected in Europe this year. As of June 24, Public Health Care (PHC), England reported six cases of C.73 strain between February 23 and June 27. The PHC designated the variant as a ‘variant under investigation’ on June 23, 2021.
According to PHC England, the new variant has undergone seven mutations in the spike protein including G75V, T76I, del247/253, L452Q, F490S, D614G and T859N; this genome sequencing can result in more transmissibility or increased resistance to neutralising antibodies.
Jeff Barrett, director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom, told Financial Times that the new variant has seven mutations in the spike protein which the virus is using to infect human cells. Barrett said this new mutation is unusual and unique.
CNBC reported that the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said: “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.”