Lambda, the latest version of the World Health Organization (WHO) coronavirus that worries the South American health authorities where it first appeared, is also troubling some scientists because of the somewhat “unusual” mutations it involves.
Lambda, formerly known as C.37, was first detected in Peru in December 2020 and has since spread to 27 countries (including Europe). The variant now accounts for about 82% of new cases in Peru, up from 50% in March and just 0.5% at the end of last year. In neighboring Chile, Lambda now accounts for almost a third of new cases of Covid-19 infection.
According to the Financial Times, microbiologist Pablo Chukuyama of the University of Cayetano Heredia in the Peruvian capital, Lima, said “this shows that the transmission speed of Lambda is faster than other variants.”
Peru has the highest mortality rate in the world due to Covid-19, but scientists are not yet sure whether Lambda mutations actually make it much more contagious or more deadly. “At the moment there is no evidence that it is more aggressive than other variants. It is possible that it has a higher degree of transmissibility, but more research is needed on this, “said Dr. Jairo Mendez Rico of the Pan American Health Organization.
Lambda, which has also been “baptized” based on the new naming system with the letters of the Greek alphabet, is the seventh that has attracted the interest of the WHO. It is considered a lesser source of concern than the four basic Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta (originally detected in Britain, South Africa, Brazil and India respectively), but is closely watched as it evolves.
On June 23, the British Public Health Office described the Lambda variant under investigation “because of its international spread and several notable mutations”. He added, however, that there was no evidence that Lambda caused a more serious illness or made vaccines less effective.
Dr Jeff Barrett of the British Institute of Genetics Wellcome Sanger explained that “one reason it is difficult to determine the Lambda threat using computational and laboratory data is that it has a rather unusual range of mutations, compared to other variants”.