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. The Lambda variant, previously known by its formal scientific name C.37, is believed to have originated in Peru in August 2020. It is the dominant strain in Peru, accounting for nearly 80% of new infections. It is also prevalent in the Chile, Ecuador and Argentina.
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. According to WHO, Lambda variant has at least seven mutations in the spike protein. (The highly-contagious Delta variant has three).
The mutations have various implications, including increased transmissibility and resistance to antibodies generated by infection or vaccination.The Lambda variant has greater infectivity than the Alpha and Gamma variants, according to a recent study in Chile.
However, experts around the world say more robust studies are needed to understand this variant’s behavior. India has not officially reported a case of Lambda variant so far, nor have any of its neighboring countries. Israel is the only Asian nation to have recorded this variant till now. Several European countries from where there is frequent travel to India, have detected the strain.