Coronavirus: Lambda not in India yet. How dangerous is it?
India has not yet reported any case of the Lambda variant of the coronavirus. But past mistakes and the peculiar nature of the disease tell us that we need to be careful about any emerging threat. The Lambda variant was, on June 14, categorized as a "Variant of Interest" by the World Health Organization. So, what is it and how dangerous can it be?
When and where did it emerge?
The Lambda variant, previously known by its formal scientific name C.37, is believed to have originated in Peru in August last year. It is the dominant strain in that country, accounting for nearly 80% of all new infections. The variant is also prevalent in the neighboring Chile, and other South American countries like Ecuador and Argentina.
How many countries have reported cases?
The variant has since spread to Europe and been detected in nearly 30 countries across the globe so far. It was recently reported in the United Kingdom. On June 25, Public Health England said there were six cases of the variant in that country, all linked to international travel. It has also been detected in an overseas traveler in Australia.
How dangerous is this strain?
According to the WHO, the Lambda variant has at least seven significant mutations in the spike protein. (For perspective, the highly-contagious Delta variant has three). The mutations could have various implications, including increased transmissibility and greater resistance to antibodies generated through prior infection or vaccination. The Lambda variant has greater infectivity than the Alpha and Gamma variants, according to a recent study in Chile.
However, experts say more studies are needed
However, experts around the world say more robust studies are needed to understand this variant's behavior. "Further robust studies into the phenotype impacts are needed to better understand the impact on countermeasures, and to control the spread," said the WHO. "There is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective," according to PHE.
Should India be concerned?
India has not officially reported a case of the Lambda variant so far, nor have any of its neighboring countries. In fact, Israel is the only Asian nation to have recorded this variant till now. But several European countries, from where there is frequent travel to India, have detected the strain. India must proactively watch out for this variant to control its potential spread.
India's coronavirus situation
India had faced a deadly second wave of COVID-19 earlier this year, which was driven by the highly-infectious Delta variant, first found in the country. The situation has since improved. In the past 24 hours, the country reported over 43,000 new cases and 930 deaths. However, experts have warned that a third wave of coronavirus infections could hit India as early as next month.