A hospital in Houston has the first case of a lambda version of the coronavirus, but public health experts say it is too early to tell whether the variant will be of the same level of concern as the delta variant currently prevalent in uninsured communities in the US. is.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 83% of COVID-19 cases in the US are from the delta variant and the majority of hospitalizations are from unvaccinated people.
The lambda variant, on the other hand, has been identified in fewer than 700 cases in the US, however, in June the World Health Organization called lambda a “type of interest”, meaning it has genetic changes that affect the characteristics of the virus. and has caused significant community spread or clusters of COVID-19 in many countries.
Medical Director of Diagnostic Biology at Houston Methodist Dr. S Wesley Long, where the case was identified, said that there are some mutations in lambda that are similar to other variants that have raised concerns, that it does not seem to be nearly as transmissible as delta.
“I know there’s a lot of interest in lambdas, but I think people really need to focus on deltas,” Long said. “Most importantly, our best defense against all of these types, regardless of diversity, is vaccination.
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What is Lambda Variant and how is it different from Delta Variant?
The lambda variant is a specific strain of COVID-19 with specific mutations. It is one of a handful of variants identified by the WHO as variants of concern or interest. Several other variants have arisen since the outbreak was first detected in late 2019 in central China.
Dr. Abhijit Duggal, a staff ICU physician and director of critical care, said, “The natural trajectory of viruses is that they have a tendency to mutate, and whenever we have a significant mutation that changes the virus … Get a new version.” Research for Medical ICU at Cleveland Clinic.
Some mutations of lambda occur in its spike protein, which is the part of the virus that helps it enter cells in the human body and also that vaccines are targeting.
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Long said the mutations occurring there and in other parts of the lambda are similar to forms of anxiety, such as alpha and gamma. But even gamma, which never held the same level as alpha or delta in the US, is more related to mutagenesis than lambda, Long said.
Duggal said there’s nothing specific to worry about with the lambda version becoming the dominant version in the US, but “watchful waiting and being vigilant will be the most important thing at this point.”
Where was the lambda variant first identified?
The lambda variant was first recognized in Peru in December 2020. Since April, more than 80% of the sequenced cases in the country have been identified as having the lambda variant.
As of June, the WHO said it had identified the lambda variant in 29 countries. The WHO said that cases of lambda are also increasing in Argentina and Chile.
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However, the variant does not spread globally to the same level as the delta variant. lambda may have been so widespread in parts of South America largely because of a “founding effect,” Long said, in which some cases of the variant first occupied a densely populated and geographically restricted area and spread slowly. became the primary driver for locally over time.
The longer lambda is compared to the gamma variant, which was first found in Brazil and spread in a similar way.
Are COVID-19 vaccines effective against lambda variants?
Studies have suggested that the vaccines currently authorized for use in the US are highly effective in preventing severe COVID-19 and death in many forms.
Duggal said there is no reason to believe that vaccines against the lambda variant would be ineffective, adding that more data is needed to know how effective it would be. Efficacy may be somewhat lower, but hospitalization in differing cases is still largely preventable with vaccination, he said.
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However, a new study posted online on Tuesday found that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was not as effective in preventing symptomatic disease when faced with delta and lambda variants. The study has not yet been reviewed or published in a journal, but is associated with an AstraZeneca vaccine study that concluded that a single dose of the vaccine was 33% effective against symptomatic disease of the delta variant. is.
Vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna have shown to maintain similar levels of effectiveness against many types of anxiety.
Long said vaccination still remains the most important factor in preventing the deadly effects of the virus and slowing down new forms.
Mutations occur in the coronavirus as it spreads from person to person. Duggal said vaccination can help prevent symptomatic disease and reduce spread in communities with high vaccination rates, which can then prevent mutations and new variants from arising.