Recent reports suggested that the new Covid-19 Lambda variant could be deadlier than the Delta strain.
The strain that originated in Peru is “more infectious than the Delta variant,” Malaysian health officials said on Monday, sharing a report from news.com.au. “A new strain said to be more dangerous than the Delta variant has reportedly been detected in more than 30 countries over the past 4 weeks,” it said.
Malaysian Health Ministry stated the Lambda strain originated from Peru, the country with the world’s highest Covid-19 death rate, before spreading to 30 nations.
It said the variant has proliferated in the South American nation, causing 500 deaths per 100,000 people, which doubles Hungary’s figure, considered the second nation with the worst mortality rate. According to data from Johns Hopkins, the European country registers 300 coronavirus-related deaths per 100,000.
Malaysian officials’ announcement comes as Chilean researchers found that the Lambda strain, also known as C.37, could be resistant to Covid-19 vaccines.
Experts from the University of Chile conducted a study of the virus in local health workers, who were fully vaccinated with China’s CoronaVac vaccine. Its results suggest that the Lambda strain is more infectious than those mutations found in Brazil and the United Kingdom.
Research data showed that mutations present in the strain’s spike protein confer an escape from neutralizing antibodies and increased infectivity.
Virologists have a particular interest in the L452Q spike protein, as it can easily infect human cells like the L452R mutation in the Delta variant. “It is possible that it may exhibit higher infection rates, but we don’t yet have enough reliable data to compare it to gamma or delta,” the researchers wrote in an article.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Lambda variant is in 82% of Covid-19 cases in Peru.
In Chile, the most contagious strain accounts for almost a third of infections, and the UK has reported six transmissions linked to travel abroad. In response, Public Health England declared it a coronavirus strain under investigation.
Additionally, the WHO classified Lambda as a strain of global concern on June 14.
WHO virologist Jairo Mendez-Rico told German news outlet DW: “So far we have seen no indication that the lambda variant is more aggressive. It’s possible that it has a higher rate of contagion but more work needs to be done on it.”
He added that SARS-CoV-2 might become more transmittable as it evolves but not necessarily more harmful to the host.