The Lambda variant of the coronavirus is a strain of the initial COVID-19 virus that was initially discovered in Peru in August 2020, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
On June 14, 2021, the agency named the strain after the Greek letter “Lambda” and declared it a “variant of interest,” meaning it could be more dangerous than the initial strain of the coronavirus.
Scientists say the variant is worth watching because of Lambda’s prevalence in several countries and its mutations.
But a lot still is unknown about the Lambda variant. It was not labeled a “variant of concern,” which only would happen if reliable data shows the variant is transmissible or worrying characteristics like the Delta variant.
Here’s what to know about the Lambda variant of COVID-19.
So far, the Lambda variant has been detected in 29 countries, most of them in South America.
Over the past few months, the Lambda variant has been detected in 81% of coronavirus cases in Peru that went through genetic sequencing, according to the WHO.
The Lambda variant most recently has been detected in the United Kingdom. Public Health England announced on June 25 that six cases of the Lambda variant were detected in the country’s borders.
All cases were linked to overseas travel.
It is unclear if Lambda is more transmissible than other variants, whether or not it causes more serious disease or whether vaccines are less effective because of the strain.
Preliminary laboratory studies, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, give signs of hope and concern.
These studies found that the antibodies that the body produces after being injected with the Pfizer, Moderna and CoronaVac vaccines are less powerful against the Lambda variant than against the initial strain.
However, the studies also found that these vaccines were still able to neutralize the virus.
“Lambda has been around for a little while, and it’s hardly invaded the U.S. at all, for example, compared to, say, even Gamma” — the variant first identified in Brazil — “which has done pretty well here,” Trevor Bedford, an evolutionary biologist, told The New York Times.
“I think all the focus should be on Delta,” he added.
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