By Lynn Allison
Just as we are getting used to dealing with the highly contagious delta variant, a new mutation is rearing its ugly head. Look out for lambda, a new and little-understood variant that could be resistant to our current COVID-19 vaccines, according to a recent study.
The lambda variant was first identified in Peru, The Hill says. Japanese researchers noted that it ”exhibits higher infectivity and immune resistance” in their study, which was published in a preprint paper that has not yet been peer-reviewed.
Lambda has a mutation in its S protein found in the cell’s binding receptor that makes it different from other coronavirus variants. According to The Hill, the modification at this location is associated with resistance to immunizations. In addition, the researchers found three mutations within the lambda’s spike protein that could mean resistance to the antibodies triggered by COVID-19 vaccines.
”Our results suggest that the resistance of the lambda variant against antiviral humoral immunity was conferred by the RSYLTPGD246-253N mutation,” the researchers concluded in their report. The researchers identified the mutation after testing gene sequences in samples of the virus in South American countries where lambda is dominant. They noted that in Chile, where the vaccination rate is around 60%, lambda evaded immunity.
”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,” the researchers warned, according to the New York Post.
Currently, there are approximately 911 cases of the lambda variant in the U.S., accounting for just one-tenth of 1% of COVID-19 infections. Delta has infected approximately 77,692 Americans so far. The World Health Organization has called lambda a ”variant of interest.” WHO labeled the alpha, beta, gamma and delta mutations as ”variants of concern,” or VOCs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not published much data on lambda, but cited another study dated July 3, which found the mRNA vaccines to be effective in neutralizing the variant, the Post report. That study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, found that the virus was also neutralized by Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody cocktail.
Experts urge everyone to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as both studies and real-world evidence show that the vaccines do prevent severe disease and death. The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it has authorized a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna for people with compromised immune systems. Other countries such as Israel and Germany plan to, or have already administered, the third shot due to the highly contagious delta variant.