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Should You Be Concerned About Lambda, The New COVID-19 Variant?

By Shreya Gupta +2 more

India is slowly but surely weathering the deadly second wave of COVID. The past months have been marked with pain, loss, anxiety and heartbreak. It was also a time of hope as India accelerated the COVID vaccination drive and millions are on their way to developing immunity against COVID-19.

According to scientists, the COVID variant responsible for the second wave is Delta. WHO had earlier classified Delta ‘a variant of concern’. 

Now it has come to light that there is another new COVID variant that is doing the rounds. This one is called Lambda. How dangerous is Lambda and what does it mean for India?

SARS-CoV-2 Virus and Variants

The nature of viruses is that they mutate with time and new variants are formed. The rule applies to the SARS-CoV2 virus as well. In fact, we have already heard and read about many of the earlier variants of this virus. The first wave was triggered by COVID variants such as Alpha, Beta or Gamma. Along with Delta, all these are in the ‘variants of concern’ bracket.

At times, mutation may bring little or no change in the properties of a virus. However, sometimes it plays an influence on the virus properties like how well vaccines work against the virus, the severity of the infection, transmission rate, post-recovery complications, etc. 

What do we know about the Lambda variant so far?

Lambda, the COVID new strain, was originally detected in Peru and by now it has already spread to 29 countries. This is what drew WHO’s attention to this new COVID variant. Not much is yet known about Lamda, but it is believed that this COVID variant has the potential to spread fast.

WHO has labelled Lambda as a ‘variant of interest’.

Although Lambda variant is not a newly discovered, it is found to be a dominant strain in Peru where it originated. The variant has been identified to cause significant community transmission or multiple COVID-19 clusters.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D

What is the difference between ‘variants of concern’ and ‘variants of interest’?

To make it convenient to monitor, manage and gather the data on the spread of different variants of SARS-CoV-2, WHO has designed a classification system for these variants. This helps in assessing the risks posed by a particular variant and signalling the degree of preparedness required to countries across the globe. Read further to know the differences between variants of concern and variants of interest –

It has been demonstrated to be associated with one or more of the following changes at a degree of global public health significance: ”¢ Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or 
”¢ Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or 
Ӣ Decrease ineffectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.
A SARS-CoV-2 virus can be a Variant of Interest (VOI) if: ”¢ It has been identified to cause community transmission/multiple COVID-19 cases/clusters, or has been detected in multiple countries; OR  
Ӣ is otherwise assessed to be a VOI by WHO in consultation with the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group.
Variants in this category are – Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.Variants in this category are – Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda.

The mutation of the Lambda variant resembles those found in several other highly contagious or worrisome variants which means more dangerous than the original strain

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

What does this mean for India?

The war against COVID does not end with vaccination. There is a lot that scientists do not know about Lambda or any of the future variants that may arise. So India will have to keep its guard up. It is too early to say if Lambda will trigger the third wave.

We the citizens need to be cautious too. Vaccination does not mean we can relax COVID norms like masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene. As of now, it is difficult to predict what the new variants like Lambda can bring to us. All that we can do is to follow all safety norms and practice COVID appropriate behaviour.  

We are all together in this. Let’s hope to win this battle against COVID soon.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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