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The New Lambda COVID-19 Variant May Be Resistant To Vaccines, Study Finds

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As the delta variant of COVID-19 surges across the world, a new variant code named Lambda could be more resistant to vaccines, a new study has shown.

Japanese researchers at University of Tokyo on July 28 shared a study that shows the new variant is highly infectious and could be more resistant to COVID-19 vaccines.

In the study, researchers said though the Lambda variant was reported to have been first detected in Peru in December 2020, “in-depth analysis” revealed that the variant was first detected in Argentina on November 8, 2020.

They said the surge in infections in Chile despite a high vaccination rate suggests that the variant may be immune to vaccines.

The preprint study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, shows that the Lambda variant is capable of bypassing the neutralizing antibodies that can fight off the virus.

Researchers said that multiple mutations in spike protein, like those found in Lambda and other variants, are more resistant to antibodies in vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. The researchers were able to demonstrate this in a lab setting.

Spike protein is the part of the virus that helps it penetrate cells in the human body — which is what vaccines target.

They, however, added that the study has not been peer reviewed, and it is therefore not conclusive.

The study shows three mutations in the lambda variant’s spike protein — RSYLTPGD246-253N, 260 L452Q and F490S — which allow for the variant to resist vaccine-induced neutralizing antibodies. Two other mutations — T76I and L452Q — are responsible for making lambda highly infectious.

Lambda variant was on June 14 highlighted by World Health Organisation (WHO) as a “variant of interest” compared to the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta strains, which have all risen to “variant of concern” status.

Variant of interest depends on evidence about a unique outbreak cluster or limited expansion in the U.S. or other countries, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Meanwhile, a variant of concern shows widespread evidence of treatments, vaccines and transmissibility.

The strain has been contained in 26 countries, including substantial outbreaks in Chile where it has been blamed for more than a third of the country’s infections, as well as Argentina and Ecuador.

The study added;

Notably, the vaccination rate in Chile is relatively high; the percentage of the people who received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine was 60%.

In addition to increasing viral infectivity, the Delta variant exhibits higher resistance to the vaccine-induced neutralization.

Similarly, here we showed that the Lambda variant equips not only increased infectivity but also resistance against antiviral immunity.

It added;

Because the Lambda variant is a (variant of interest), it might be considered that this variant is not an ongoing threat compared to the pandemic (variants of concern). However, because the Lambda variant is relatively resistant to the vaccine-induced (antibodies), it might be possible that this variant is feasible to cause breakthrough infection.

Since the lambda variant was first detected in Peru, it hasn’t spread globally at the same pace as the delta variant. It has, however, become widespread in South America, but this could be due to the “founder effect,” according to Dr. S. Wesley Long, medical director of diagnostic biology at Houston Methodist, where the case was identified in the U.S.

Founder effect means the variant first took hold in a densely populated and geographically restricted area, making it the primary variant over time.

Nevertheless, a big COVID-19 surge has occurred in Chile in Spring 2021, suggesting that the Lambda variant is proficient in escaping from the antiviral immunity elicited by vaccination.

Scientists in Chile had warned in a recent study that the Lambda variant appears to evade vaccines better than other strains.

Although it is not clear yet whether this variant is more dangerous than the Delta now threatening populations in many countries, senior researcher Kei Sato of the University of Tokyo believes “Lambda can be a potential threat to the human society.”

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