A new variant of the coronavirus “Lambda” worries scientists. This type of virus, first detected in Peru, has already spread to several dozen countries. At the same time, the death rate of Peruvians from COVID-19 breaks world records.
For the first time, a new variant of the coronavirus, which received the name “Lambda” in June, was detected in the Peruvian capital of Lima in December 2020, and by April of this year it had firmly established itself in the South American country, almost completely displacing its infectious predecessors, the BBC reports. In Peru, for every hundred new cases of COVID-19 infection, Lambda accounted for 97 cases.
At the same time, the BBC notes, the death rate from COVID-19 per capita in Peru is considered the highest in the world (out of every thousand infected with coronavirus in the country, six people die). This circumstance gives grounds to assume that “Lambda” is much more dangerous than other variants of the coronavirus, being not only more contagious, but also more deadly.
However, everything is not so simple. As The Conversation notes, there are many reasons why Peru has coped so badly with the pandemic. These include: a poorly funded, insufficiently prepared health care system with too few beds in intensive care units; slow introduction of the vaccine; limited testing opportunities; a large informal economy (few people could afford not to work); overcrowded housing. But also, of course, the spread of the “Lambda” variant.
On June 14, the World Health Organization added “Lambda” to the list of variants “of interest,” since this version of the virus has an international distribution and several notable mutations.
According to WHO terminology, this category includes a variant of the coronavirus that has mutations that can potentially affect its main characteristics: contagiousness, the severity of the disease caused, the ability to overcome immune defenses, etc.
According to a number of experts, Lambda does have an unusual set of mutations that can increase the contagiousness of this variant due to a slightly modified form of the spike-shaped protein with which the coronavirus enters the cell. The same circumstance may also make Lambda less vulnerable to antibodies developed for earlier versions of the coronavirus.
Nevertheless, scientists do not yet have convincing evidence that the coronavirus variant found in Peru and discovered to this day in about thirty countries of the world poses a real threat. Nevertheless, according to the WHO report, Lambda is associated with significant rates of community transmission in many countries, and over time the prevalence increases simultaneously with the increase in the incidence of COVID-19.”