New COVID Variant Ripping Through South America
Concerns over the transmissibility and danger posed by the lambda COVID-19 variant are growing.
LIMA, PERU — Concerns over the transmissibility and danger posed by the lambda COVID-19 variant are growing as it has now been detected in 31 countries, according to tracking site GISAID[j].
The variant was first detected in Peru and now accounts for 82 percent of new infections in the country, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle[k]. It is also being detected in 33 percent of cases in Chile. Other countries in South America, including Argentina, and Brazil, are experiencing rapid spreads of their own.
The variant is defined by several mutations to its spike protein. The L452Q mutation in particular is believed to have enhanced its ability to attach to human cells, according to a preprint of a study printed on the BioRxiv[l] online archive.
The same study showed some increase in resistance to antibodies created by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines. This was again caused by the L552Q mutation, as well as the F490S mutation. However the study concluded that this increased resistance was minor.
Much of the concern around the variant, then, seemingly comes from its effects in the outside world, rather than scientific analysis of its abilities. Peru, where it is dominant, has the highest number of COVID deaths per head of population in the world, and the highest number of deaths per confirmed case of COVID-19.
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