10 updates on the delta plus, lambda COVID-19 variants

South Korea reported its first case of the "delta plus" COVID-19 strain Aug. 3, The Washington Post reports. Some health officials have said delta plus, first identified in Europe in March 2020, is believed to spread more easily than the original delta variant, first detected in India and now the dominant U.S. strain. 

Meanwhile, preliminary data published July 28 from researchers at the University of Tokyo shows the lambda variant, first detected in Peru in August 2020, is highly transmissible and may be more resistant to vaccines than earlier strains, Newsweek reports. 

Nine more updates on the variants: 

Delta plus 

1. In June, India classified the strain as a "variant of concern," with health officials there citing early studies suggesting the new strain binds more easily to lung cells and is potentially resistant to monoclonal antibody therapy. 

2. As of July 23, delta plus was detected in up to 70 cases sequenced in India, the Hindustan Times reported. 

3. While India's health ministry has cited evidence indicating the strain is more transmissible, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium has since said trends have yet to emerge, according to the Hindustan Times article cited by the Post

4. Delta plus has been detected in at least 10 countries, including the U.S, though it's unclear how many U.S. cases have been linked to the strain. In the U.K., there's been at least 39 cases and six probable ones linked to the variant as of July 23.

5. Cases of the variant have mostly been in younger people, with preliminary data indicating vaccine-induced antibodies are protective against it, Colin Angus, a public health policy modeler and analyst in England told the Post


6. The strain has been detected in 1,037 U.S. COVID-19 cases — less than 1 percent of samples sequenced — as of July 27, according to data from the GISAID, which tracks global viral genome data. Houston Methodist Hospital confirmed its first hospitalization linked to the variant July 19. 

7 Lambda, which has the strongest presence in South America, is now the dominant strain in Peru and has been detected in at least 29 countries as of June 15, according to a WHO report. 

8. The latest report, published in the preprint server bioRxiv, found the strain's spike protein contains three mutations that make it more resistant to neutralization by antibodies induced through vaccination, and two mutations that make it more transmissible than the original strain.

9. Currently, the World Health Organization lists lambda as a variant of interest, which researchers said may lead people to overlook the potential severity the strain may pose. 

"Because the lambda variant is a [variant of concern,] it might be considered that this variant is not an ongoing threat compared to the pandemic [variants of concern,]" the researchers wrote. "However, because the lambda variant is relatively resistant to the vaccine-induced antisera, it might be possible that this variant is feasible to cause breakthrough infection." 


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