The variants and COVID-19 mutations continue to put the world on alert. In addition to variants such as the Delta, others continue to emerge that focus the attention of the medical and scientific world.
Such is the case of the Lambda variant, recently classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a variant of interest, which today is already responsible for a good part of the infections in Peru. When did this variant appear? What is known about it?
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The first thing to be clear about is that, according to the WHO, all viruses they change over time. And while some of these changes have little impact, others affect properties of the virus such as its ease of spread, the severity of the disease or the effectiveness of vaccines and medications.
In this sense, there are variants of concern, such as Alpha (United Kingdom), Beta (South Africa), or Delta (India), in which it has already been proven that they are associated with changes such as more transmission, more serious disease, among others.
For their part, variants of interest, like Lambda, are those that already have community transmission and that have suspicious mutations, but that have yet to be evaluated by scientists to determine if these are more transmission or more serious disease.
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Now what about the variant? Lambda, or C.37, was first identified in Peru in 2020.
However, researchers from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) say that is not correct call it a “Peruvian or Andean variant”, because although Peruvian scientists were the first to study it, there are still many doubts about its source.
“It is not necessary to call it Andean, since its origin is not clear, and it has also been detected in the US, Australia, Germany, Spain and the UK. That variant shares some common features to other variants of interest”Sylvain Aldiguieri, PAHO’s Incident Chief, told the Peruvian newspaper ‘El Comercio’.
It was the researchers from the Cayetano Heredia University in Peru who detected the variant. And, precisely, they are the ones who indicate that Lambda still has more doubts than certainties.
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This week we report the identification of a new lineage (variant) of SARS-CoV-2 that appears to be expanding rapidly in Peru and Chile. We call it C.37. I tell you what we know and do not know about it. 🧵
– Pablo Tsukayama (@pablotsukayama) April 24, 2021
Pablo Tsukayama, doctor in molecular microbiology and coordinator of the Microbial Genomics Laboratory of Peru, which carries out research on this variant, told ‘BBC Mundo’ that “most likely it is more transmissible because it is the only way to explain its rapid growth”.
Tsukayama further explained that the Lambda variant accumulates new mutations in its genome, but it also has some that have already been seen in the variants from Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Regarding its transmissibility and danger, the expert explained: “Is C.37 more transmissible or more virulent than other variants? We don’t know yet. We need to collect more data and design studies that allow us to answer those questions. This will require time and new local and international collaborations ”.
According to experts, no major changes have been reported in the already known symptoms of covid-19 and it cannot be concluded that the Lambda variant generates a more serious disease.
Regarding vaccines, Tsukayama indicated that many more analyzes are still needed to determine whether the biologics applied today lose or not effectiveness against this variant.
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There is currently little evidence on the impact associated with these genomic changes, and more robust studies are needed.
In all this coincides England Public Health, the UK health authority, which classified it as a variant under investigation since June 23.
“Lambda has a number of mutations with suspected phenotypic implications, such as a potential increase in transmissibility or possible increased resistance to neutralizing antibodies. However, there are currently little evidence on the impact associated with these genomic changes, and more robust studies are needed ”, indicated the English health authority.
So far, according to Public Health England, “there is no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or makes vaccines less effective”.
Thus, according to WHO reports, Lambda is for now object of analysis well “there is limited evidence”On the impact it can have on the transmission of covid-19 and its real magnitude.
At the moment, Lambda has already been detected in 28 countries, especially in South American countries. It has already been sequenced in Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, among others.
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