There is a new variable that deserves the attention of scientists and health authorities in many countries. Lambda, which is prevalent in Peru and has similarities with the Delta variant, may not be able to establish itself in Europe. Portugal has two registered cases.
The report of the National Institute of Dr. Ricardo Jorge (INSA) this Tuesday raised the level of representation of the lambda variable in Portugal. Nationwide, two cases have been recorded since April of this year. In Peru, where it was first recorded in August 2020, it is estimated to be responsible for at least 80% of infections.
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers lambda “a different kind of concern”, which has urged specialists to study and record possible infections around the world.
For Miguel Castanho, a researcher at the Institute of Molecular Medicine (IMM), lambda may not succeed in establishing itself in other countries, especially in Europe, because it is very similar to delta, contagious and similar in structure. “It’s not very likely that we have a variant that could be more transmissible and cause more serious disease than the delta variant,” he told JN.
The explanation is simple, but it is not the result of being “locked out” under lock and key. Since it first appeared in Peru, a country in South America where deltas may not have been widespread, lambdas found ideal spreading conditions in that region. “It gradually becomes more difficult for the new variants to impose themselves on the already dominant ones, because they have come from an adaptive process over the past year,” he explains.
The potential spread of lambda in Portugal may not occur as clearly as in the case of Delta, Which already accounts for 90% of new infections. “It depends a bit on the epidemiological dynamics in each country,” the researcher advances.
But this does not mean that one should close one’s eyes to the potential of the new variant. Lambda, like Delta, has changed the composition of the spike protein (which attaches the virus to human cells). “Everything that happens in this region of the protein deserves our attention,” says Miguel Castanho.
The “spike” roughly represents an “entrance” of the virus into human cells. If lambda is involved in altering the protein, the researcher says, scientists and health authorities should “be careful.” “No, because it has tragic consequences in terms of disease, but it can happen,” he adds.
Studies with different results
Lambda has already started to be a part of the studies of many institutions around the world and the results are not uniform. An investigation by the British government’s Public Health England agency adds that the new alternative does not appear to cause more serious disease or is resistant to vaccines. On the other hand, a study by the University of Chile, one of the countries most affected by the latter strain, indicates that lambdas are more contagious than other variants and can escape from vaccination antibodies.
Divergent conclusions are not alien to experts. Miguel Castanho explains that these are “future articles”. It concludes, “The lambda variable is very limited on a regional scale. At the global level, there are not many infected people yet. Naturally, the studies were not completely identical, because they do not follow the same methodology.”