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New Lambda Covid-19 variant discovered in SA: What you need to know


The variant has been detected in as many as 30 countries, including in North and South America, Europe and Oceania.

A NEW variant of the Covid-19 virus known as Lambda, which was first detected in Peru some eight months ago, is now circulating in South Africa.

This was confirmed by Professor Barry Schoub during an interview on Tuesday on the POWER FM Breakfast show. Schoub urged people to remain calm while the country’s scientists gathered more data on the variant and whether or not vaccines were effective against it.

What is the Lambda variant and how is it different from other variants?

While the Delta variant continues to wreak havoc in SA and globally, a major concern is the Lambda variant, which carries mutations that could potentially make it more resistant to neutralising antibodies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the Lambda Covid-19 variant accounts for around 81% of the cases reported since April in Peru and has since been added to the WHO’s list of variants of interest.

However, the global health body believes such strains are less of a threat than its four “variants of concern” — Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta originally detected in the UK, South Africa, Brazil and India respectively — but says they need to be monitored closely.

Here’s what we know about the Lambda variant:

  • It was previously known as C.37, Lambda was
  • Since then it has become the dominant variant in the South American country, where it accounts for more than 80% of new infections.
  • It has been detected in as many as 30 countries, including North and South America, Europe and Oceania.

What makes it different from other variants?

  • The Lambda variant has multiple mutations in the spike protein that could have an impact on its transmissibility, but more studies are needed to understand the mutations.
  • According to research published last week but yet to be peer reviewed, Lambda has seven unique spike protein mutations called L452Q, which is similar to the L452R mutation seen in the Delta and Epsilon variants.
  • The L452R mutation is thought to make Delta and Epsilon more infectious and resilient against vaccination; the team concluded that Lambda’s L452Q mutation might also help it spread far and wide.

Are vaccines effective against the Lambda variant?

  • The results of the study suggested that the CoronaVac vaccine produces fewer neutralising antibodies — proteins that defend cells against infections — in response to the Lambda variant.
  • The are no results on whether other vaccines are effective against the variant.

What are the symptoms of the Lambda variant?

There’s limited information on the variant but the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) laid down a list of symptoms for people to watch out for:

  • Fever
  • New or continuous cough
  • Loss of sense of smell and taste

WHO variants of concern:

  • Alpha
  • Beta
  • Gamma
  • Delta

And the seven variants of interest:

  • Lambda
  • Epsilon
  • Zeta
  • Eta
  • Theta
  • Iota
  • Kappa
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