What is the lambda variant and how contagious is the strain of COVID-19?

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – FEBRUARY 19: Clinical support technician Douglas Condie extracts viruses from swab samples so that the genetic structure of a virus can be analysed and identified in the coronavirus testing laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, on February 19, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jane Barlow – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

DALLAS (NewsNation Now) — Although delta remains the most prevalent variant, the lambda strain of COVID-19 is starting to emerge and there’s little known about it.

“We do not know whether this is going to be better or worse than delta, there’s not enough information,” said Dr. Andrew Yurochko, with LSU Health Shreveport.

According to the World Health Organization, lambda was first discovered in Peru last year. Since April, it’s been responsible for more than 80 percent of cases reported there.

It’s now taken over other parts of South America, including Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, and Brazil. Now, 44 American states have reported lambda cases and WHO has labeled it “a variant of interest.”

“It should surprise nobody that we are going to have further evolution of this virus into other variants,” said Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, medical director of infectious diseases at OhioHealth.

Two recent studies found lambda to be more infectious than older versions of coronavirus and more resistant to vaccination antibodies. The studies, done in New York and Japan, are not yet peer reviewed.

“It’s definitely more infectious, and we may not be protected from it,” said Dr. Martha Whyte, with the
Louisiana Department of Public Health.

Many doctors maintain the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against lambda and remains your best chance at protection.

“Every person who’s unvaccinated is really a little incubator for developing a new variant,” said Dr. David Weber, with the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

One of the first lambda cases in the United States was discovered at Houston Methodist Hospital. Dr. Wesley Long works there and says studying and understanding new mutations of COVID-19 is critical.

“It is important to keep studying the variants and looking for new variants or any changes that might render vaccines or therapies less effective,” Long said.

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