The Lambda variant has at least seven significant mutations in the spike protein. The WHO and other public health bodies are trying to evaluate the implication of these mutations compared to other strains of the virus, on whether it could be more transmissible and more resistant to previous immunity either through natural infection or vaccination.
The variant, also known as the C.37 strain, was first detected in Peru in August 2020. This has now been detected in 29 countries, territories, or areas in five WHO regions, although it has a stronger presence in South America. It has been classified as a variant of interest internationally by the WHO on 15 June 2021. While India has not yet reported a case, any new variant is a cause for concern is detected.
What are the symptoms and management of the Lambda variant?
At present, there is nothing to suggest that the symptoms of infection with the Lambda variant are different from other coronavirus strains. Fever, cough, loss of taste, and smell continue to be the main symptoms of COVID-19 in countries seeing this variant. The treatment is also the same as that of the previous variants. Preliminary studies have shown the effectiveness of a monoclonal antibody cocktail against this lambda variant.
Do vaccines protect against the Lambda variant?
In a pre-print scientific paper that has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers found that mRNA vaccine are effective against the Lambda variant. The efficacy of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccine has been questioned after the spread of this variant in Peru, Chile, and Brazil who rely heavily on these vaccines. But more studies will be needed to understand the effect that the lambda variant has on the vaccine efficacy of Covishield and Covaxin.
(Dr. Trupti Gilada, Consultant Physician in Infectious Disease, Masina Hospital)