In the midst of a worrying escalation of the delta variant of the covid-19 in Spain, which has all the ballots to be the next dominant strain of transmission in Europe – the forecast of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is that it will account for 90% of coronavirus cases in the European Union ( EU) at the end of August-, the World Health Organization (WHO) has introduced a new mutation within its list of ‘variants of interest’.

Is about lambda o C.37, first detected in August 2020 in Peru and classified “of interest” (VOI, for its acronym in English) by the WHO since June 14, 2021. The Arequipa region, in the southern highlands of Peru and with about one million inhabitants, established last week restrictions against the advance of the pandemic due to the confirmation of a second case of the delta variant, from India, and the increase in infections and deaths due to the lambda variant, the first that arrived in the Andean country last year. In this region, 90.6% of cases are already due to the C.37 or lambda variant.

The Barcelona Institute for Global Health highlights that the lambda variant has been classified as “of interest” due to its high presence in Peru and other South American countries“According to immunologist Adelaida Sarukhan,” lambda carries mutations that could increase its transmissibility or their ability to evade the immune response, but there are very little evidence at the moment“.

According to the latest WHO update on variants of SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes covid-19, the strains which are currently classified as “of concern” are Alpha (B.1.1.7, emerged in the United Kingdom), Beta (B.1.351, emerging in South Africa), Gamma (P.1, original from Brazil) and Delta (B.1.617.2, formerly known as the Indian variant).

On the other hand, in the list of variants “of interest” the variants called Epsilon (B.1.427 / B.1.429, emerged in March 2020 in the US), Zeta (P.2, detected in April of this year in Brazil), And (B.1.525, identified in several countries since last December), Theta (P.3, emerged in January in the Philippines), Iota (B.1.526, detected in the US in November 2020), Kappa (B.1.617.1, original from India and identified in October 2020) and Lambda (C.37, identified in Peru last August).

“We know that the ‘modus vivendi’ of the virus is mutating and until we control the pandemic it will continue to change”

The difference between variant classified as “of concern” and “of interest” by the WHO is that the former represent an epidemiological “increase in transmissibility or harmful change”, as well as a “increased virulence or change in the clinical presentation of the disease “, in addition to achieving decrease efficiency of social and public health measures or diagnoses, vaccines or therapies available. Instead, the latter have been identified as cause of community transmission or origin of multiple cases, or have been detected in several countries.

Regarding the last Andean variant considered ‘of interest’ by the WHO, according to the database GISAID, this strain is present in 25 countries, mainly Latin American, but also European. In fact, Spain has already detected 44 cases, eleven of them in the last four weeks, which represents 0.7% of the total cases in this period of time.

Spain, closely linked to Latin America, is the seventh country in the world with the most cases currently registered of the Andean variant, behind Chile, where 670 cases of the C.37 strain have been identified to date, the United States (with 524 cases), Peru (with 222), Germany (87), Argentina (86) and Mexico (57).

Evolution of the Lamba variant of the covid-19 virus, by geographical areas.
Evolution of the Lamba variant of the covid-19 virus, by geographical areas.

“They will keep coming”

The Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, said this Thursday during the press conference after the extraordinary Council of Ministers in which the flexibility of the use of the mask in the open air was approved that “we know that the modus vivendi of the virus is mutating and until we control the pandemic it will continue to mutate“She indicated when asked about the progress of the Delta variant. The Deputy Minister of Health of the Community of Madrid, Antonio Zapatero, warned of this strain on Friday, who at a press conference reported that it already represents” more than 10% “of cases in the region.

Covid delta variant

On the variants, the special envoy of the WHO David Nabarro also spoke on Wednesday in an interview on the British chain Sky News, in which he warned that “they will continue to arrive” and that “this problem of the variants is what we are observing in all the world”.

“They will keep coming. We’ll go from Delta to Lambda and then to the other Greek letters. That is unavoidable, and some of these variants will be problematic, they may break vaccine-related protection in some people and that will cause problems, “he added.


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