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What you need to know: Coronavirus Updates: NPR

A medical assistant conducted a COVID-19 test in Los Angeles last week. Cases of COVID-19 are increasing due to the predominant strain of highly contagious delta mutants in the United States.

Mario Tama / Getty Images


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A medical assistant conducted a COVID-19 test in Los Angeles last week. Cases of COVID-19 are increasing due to the predominant strain of highly contagious delta mutants in the United States.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

The coronavirus delta mutant soon became the predominant strain in the United States, but it is not the only mutant circulating in the population.

The lambda variant, which was first identified in Peru, is also drawing attention as it is beginning to be identified in several states.Reported by Houston Methodist Hospital That first case Of this week’s variant.Recently a scientist at South Carolina Medical College Announcement They found the mutant in a virus sample taken in April.

According to a database for scientists tracking variants of COVID-19 Less than 700 Of the more than 34 million cases reported so far, one of the lambda variants has been sequenced in the United States.But the US is only doing sequencing A small part Of that case, as that number does not reflect the actual number of lambda cases in the country.

Less than 1% of US cases in the last 4 weeks have been identified as lambda variants. according to To GISAID, a repository of genomic data.

So do we need to add lambda to our list of major concerns in the United States? Still, according to public health authorities and experts.

Delta mutants, which are more than twice as contagious as the original strain of coronavirus, are now 83% The number of new coronavirus cases in the US Delta remains a central concern of public health authorities.

What we know about lambda variants

The lambda variant was first identified in Peru in August 2020. according to To the World Health Organization. According to GISAID, cases of this variant are currently identified in 28 countries, but many of them identify only a handful of lambda cases.

Dr. Stuart Ray He is a professor of medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and specializes in infectious diseases. Ray opened one of the first COVID-19 wards in Johns Hopkins in March 2020 and also oversaw the efforts of Johns Hopkins’ COVID-19 sequence.

He tells NPR that Lambda is “a kind of alpha variant cousin.” This is one of the earliest identified variants of concern.

Lambda has spread to become the dominant sequence of people with COVID-19 in Peru. WHO pointed out last month that the presence of lambdas is increasing in other South American countries, including Argentina, Chile and Ecuador.And now we know it exists in the United States

Lambda mutants carry many suspected mutations, including increased potential transmissibility and increased resistance to neutralizing antibodies, WHO said. However, the full extent of the effects of those mutations is not yet fully understood and further research is needed.

There is no clear direct data, but the evidence so far does not suggest that Lambda has a greater advantage over Delta, Ray says.

“Currently, deltas are clearly dominant, so I think we can continue to focus on deltas as a hallmark of highly infectious variants. It’s still a developing story, but it gets more serious with each infection. There is some evidence that it is possible, “he says. ..

A doctor checks the x-ray plate of the lungs while visiting a comatose COVID-19 patient in the northern suburbs of Lima, Peru.

Ernesto Benavides / AFP via Getty Images


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A doctor checks the x-ray plate of the lungs while visiting a comatose COVID-19 patient in the northern suburbs of Lima, Peru.

Ernesto Benavides / AFP via Getty Images

COVID-19 vaccine works well against mutants

There are no complete data on the efficacy of the vaccine against lambda mutants. However, so far, studies have shown that vaccines available in the United States provide protection against major strains of the virus, including highly contagious delta variants.

“We know that vaccination protects people almost equally,” says Ray.

The majority of hospitalizations and deaths Currently, from COVID-19 in the United States, we are among the unvaccinated people.

Studies have shown that vaccines are less effective in producing neutralizing antibodies against the variant of concern than against the original strain of the virus. However, T cells also play an important role in the body’s immune response, and clinical trials of neutralizing antibodies do not measure T cell response. That is, the vaccine may be more effective against mutants than suggested by testing antibody response alone.

WHO states that Lambda is a mutant strain of interest. CDC does not

WHO is currently assigning Greek letters to virus strains that are classified as follows: Variant of concern or mutant of concern.. Variant of concern has characteristics such as being much more contagious or more toxic.

Their Greek letter names indicate when they were identified as potentially important — they are not of a particular alphabetical severity.

All alpha, beta, gamma, and delta variants are considered by WHO to be of concern.

WHO Classification Last month’s Lambda was a global “variant of interest” — one step below the variant of concern. This means that it exhibits genetic alterations that are suspected to affect infectivity and severity of the disease and has been shown to cause significant community infections or multiple COVID-19 clusters.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains its own list of mutant strains of concern and interest in the United States. In particular, lambda is not on. List of CDCs As a variant of interest, concern, or serious consequences.

Ray states that tracking variants is important so that you don’t get dazzled by sudden arrivals.

“We need to pay attention to these new variants and track them down. Genomic epidemiology continues to be an important activity in understanding this epidemic,” says Ray. “But for now, I think Lambda is a mutant of interest. See if it’s a mutant of concern.”

All we have to do to counter the new strain is the same we already know about the coronavirus. And because deltas are so contagious, they are at high risk.

This means that vaccination is more important than ever. “As the variants become more infectious, the proportion of people who have been vaccinated to control the epidemic increases.”

What you need to know: Coronavirus Updates: NPR

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