What is the Lambda variant of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and why is it a ‘variant of interest’?

While it hasn’t been detected in India, the Lambda variant of coronavirus has been detected in 30 other countries, and has the potential to be more transmissible than the original one, according to WHO.
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While the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has been spreading across the world, a new variant has been found, which originated in Peru in late 2020. The variant that was initially called C.37 is now called Lambda, and is also dubbed the ‘Andean variant’ after being detected in South American country.

The variant has been called the ‘Variant of Interest’ (VOI) by the World Health Organisation (WHO), implying that it has the potential to be more transmissible than the original one.

The Lambda variant has about eight notable mutations, including seven in the gene for the spike protein found on the surface of the virus. Some of these mutations may also be present in other variants and might make the virus more infectious or can ignore the body’s immune response.

While there is no clear information about the transmission, many fear that it can be more transmissible than the Delta variant and the original virus. In fact, it has already reached about 30 countries, India not being one of them.

In a long series of Twitter threads, Peruvian microbiologist Pablo Tsukayama shared that it is impossible to predict the evolution of the variants and their effect on the course of the pandemic.

Dr Pragya Yadav, head of the National Institute of Virology's Maximum Containment Facility, told the news agency ANI, “A recent study revealed that the lambda variant is susceptible to mRNA vaccine-elicited antibodies and convalescent serum was able to neutralize the lambda variant."

While most of the vaccines are known to be effective against some of the known variants of the coronavirus, there is not much information about their efficacy against this variant.

However, early studies, including one from New York University published on July 2, suggest Lambda may be a bit resistant to antibodies produced by the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, but concluded it is not by enough “to cause a significant loss of protection against infection.” (PTI)
Edited by Kanishk Singh