Although the United States has sequenced fewer than 700 cases of the lambda variant out of more than 34 million coronavirus cases reported to date, medical professionals have identified the variant in several states. Public health officials and experts say we do not need to worry so much about the variant yet because it only represents fewer than 1% of U.S. cases in the last four weeks but Houston Methodist Hospital reported its first case this week. Scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina recently announced they had found the variant in a virus sample taken in April.
What We Know About the Lambda Variant:
- The variant originated in Peru and first identified in 2020.
- Dr. Stuart Ray tells NPR that lambda is “sort of a cousin of the alpha variant.”
- Lambda spread until it became a dominant sequence in people with COVID-19 in Peru.
- The WHO noted last month an elevated presence of lambda in other South American countries, including Argentina, Chile and Ecuador. And now we know it’s present in the United States.
- The lambda variant carries a number of mutations with suspected implications, such as potential increased transmissibility or possible increased resistance to neutralizing antibodies, the WHO says.
- Studies have found that the vaccines are less effective at generating neutralizing antibodies against the variants of concern than against the original strain of the virus.