Early studies suggest that this lineage, formerly known as the Andean or Peruvian strain, could have a vaccine escape similar to Delta
Spain has focused its gaze in recent weeks on the Delta variant, the Indian strain, which, according to all indications, is behind the ‘boom’ of cases that has placed the country in just a few days at the head of the incidence of the Union European. This lineage that rages in countries with high vaccination rates such as the United Kingdom, in Spain, according to Health, is only the majority in Catalonia, the Valencian Community and Navarra. In fact, according to the latest report from the Ministry of Health, its presence does not reach 11% of the samples analyzed, although all experts believe that this figure is much higher due to the delay in case sequencing. Moreover, in the coming days Health will be forced to recognize a much higher prevalence.
But as public opinion focuses on Delta, experts at the National Epidemiology Center are almost as concerned about what could well be the twin sister of the Indian strain, the so-called Lambda variant (C.37), formerly known as the Andean or Peruvian strain. And it is that Spain, according to GISAD, the most important global platform for monitoring the different strains, is already the seventh country in the world with the most sequenced cases of this strain, already located in 31 states, which, according to the first studies, could be as contagious and vaccine elusive as the Delta.
The latest GISAD update has revealed that Spain has already sequenced 55 cases of this variant. In the world, only Chile (with 840), the United States (649), Peru (242), Mexico (115), Germany (99) and Argentina (87) surpass this number of notifications.
The Ministry of Health, last Monday, in its latest update of the “epidemiological situation of the variants with the greatest impact and interest in public health in Spain”, maintains that Lambda “has only been detected in a timely manner, below 1% “In the sequencing, although he admits that there have been” several outbreaks reported in Cantabria in which this variant was implicated (one of them with more than 90 cases) “, although not all of them were sequenced.
The general director of Public Health of Cantabria, Reinhard Wallmann, last Wednesday described the expansion of this strain throughout the region as “alarming”, since it already represents more than 40% of the sequenced cases in this territory.
The official data that the Ministry of Health manages on this Andean strain is still “scarce”, since the studies on this lineage are still very “preliminary”. On July 15, the World Health Organization (WHO) included it in its list of variants of interest after verifying that Lamda is behind 81% of infections in Peru, 37% of those registered in Argentina or 32% in Chile, where the massive vaccination of the Government of Sebastián Piñera has not been able to stop the impact of this strain. However, the WHO itself recognizes that for now there is “limited evidence on its virulence and resistance to immunity.”
In the department headed by Carolina Darias, the first pre-publications are carefully studied that indicates that this lineage, sequenced for the first time in December 2020, presents important mutations in protein S, which could mean a greater vaccine escape, even similar to Delta’s.
Research in Peru and Chile, not yet confirmed by peers (that is, not exposed to the scientific community to be refuted), point to a greater transmission capacity than the other variants that it has practically erased from the map in South America, such as the Gamma (South African) or Alpha (British) and greater escape, at least, to the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine. Pre-printed articles by Brazilian scientists also point out that Lambda could be as transmissible as Delta.
In Health they still do not have their own studies on the Andean strain on which to base a national strategy. All the efforts these days – they assure in the department headed by Carolina Darias – are focused on trying to stop the exponential growth of Delta, which, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, will be responsible for 90% of the contagions from the EU at the end of this month of August.