The World Health Organization has named a new COVID-19 virus strain in its ‘variant of interest’ list. This new addition to the list is astrain named ‘Lambda’ that was first detected in August 2020 in Peru. Since then, the variant has been reported in over 29 countries across the globe. On June 14, the WHO classified it as a global variant due to an elevated prevalence in South America. While the concern about this new variant is rising in people’s mind, here’s everything you need to know about it.
Countries Affected by Lambda Variant
According to news agency Xinhua, the ‘Lambda’ variant has been very rampant in Peru where it accounts for 81 per cent of the COVID-19 cases recorded since April 2021. While the presence of this variant has been reported in 29 countries in the world, the virus has largely affected Latin American countries. In Chile, it was discovered that 32 per cent of all cases in the last 60 days have been because of the Lambda variant of COVID-19. Countries like Argentina and Ecuador have also reported the elevated presence of this new variant.
What is a Variant of Interest?
The WHO has categorized COVID-19 variants in two broad categories — Variant of interest and variants of concern. The virus strains marked under the ‘concern’ list have the potential to cause epidemiological problems whereas the others do not have that capacity yet. After categorization in the variant of interest, the WHO will closely monitor Lambda in terms of transmissibility and resistance to neutralizing antibodies. WHO then will take a call whether it should be moved to the variant of concern list or not.
According to the limited data available so far, WHO reported that the ‘Lambda’ variant carries mutations that might increase transmissibility or strengthen the virus’s resistance to antibodies. However, the evidence isn’t enough to draw any conclusion and the WHO plans to conduct new studies to understand more about the new virus strain.
The most recent example of the Variant of Interest is the Delta variation which was classified under the list till May 11. The virus strain which was first discovered in India has now been categorised as variant of concern.
Variant of Concern
Apart from the Delta Variant (B.1.617.2), WHO’s list of ‘Variant of concern’ includes the B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), B.1.427 (Epsilon), and B.1.429 (Epsilon).