WHO says Delta has spread to 80 countries; Lambda being categorised as “variants of interest”

WHO says Delta has spread to 80 countries; Lambda being categorised as “variants of interest”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that the delta Covid variant, first detected in India, has already spread to more than 80 countries and is undergoing continuous mutations as it spreads across the globe.

While, the UN health agency has categorised the Lambda variant, the Covid-19 variant first detected in August 2020 and makes up for 81 per cent of the covid cases reported since April in Peru, has been added to its list of “variants of interest” due to its elevated presence in South America.

The delta variant, which was designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a variant of concern in the US in the beginning of May, accounts for 10% of all new cases in the United States, a 6% increase from last week. Research shows that this variant is even more transmissible than other variants. WHO officials said that some reports have shown that it causes more severe symptoms, but more research is needed to confirm these conclusions.

The WHO is also keeping a check on the recent reports of a “delta plus” variant. “What I think this means is that there is an additional mutation that has been identified,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead.

“In some of the delta variants we’ve seen one less mutation or one deletion instead of an additional, so we’re looking at all of it”, she added.

In the UK, the delta variant makes up more than 60% of new covid cases. It has also become the dominant strain there, surpassing its native alpha variant, which was first detected in the country last winter.

Chief medical advisor to the president Dr Anthony Fauci, said, “we cannot let that happen in the United States,” as he urged more people to be vaccinated, especially young adults.

Additionally,  WHO also added another Covid mutation, the lambda variant, to its list of variants of interest. The lambda variant has been detected in South America, including in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Argentina.

The lambda variant has multiple mutations in the spike protein that could impact its transmissibility, but more studies are needed to fully understand the mutations, Van Kerkhove said. The global health agency is also keeping a close eye on more than 50 different Covid variants.

According to a report by Xinhua news agency citing World Health Organization officials, the Lambda variant is said to have originated in South America and is prevalent in 29 countries, mostly in South America. Scientists have detected this variant in the region, including in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Argentina.

It accounted for 32 per cent of all submitted sequences in Chile in the preceding 60 days. It is only outclassed by the Gamma variant, first identified in Brazil. Even countries such as Argentina and Ecuador have also reported an increased prevalence of the new lambda variant.

WHO is monitoring more than 50 different Covid variants, but not all become enough of a public health threat to make its formal watchlist. The lambda variant has multiple mutations in the spike protein that could have an impact on its transmissibility, but more studies are needed to fully understand the mutations.

So far, apart from the Delta variant , which ravaged through India during the second wave, other ‘variants of concern’ include the B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), B.1.427 (Epsilon).