Coronavirus Lambda variant could be vaccine-resistant, says new study

The variant is proliferating in South America.

Published: August 13, 2021 7:18am

Updated: August 13, 2021 8:16am

As the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, scientists abroad are warning that the Lambda variant may create a new set of problems.

A late July report posted at bioRxiv, a preprint archive operated by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, found that the C.37 (Lambda) variant of the virus is just as virulent as Delta and likely more contagious. 

The study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, was conducted by scientists in Japan who were focused on the Lambda outbreak this spring that occurred in Chile.

"Notably," they write, "the vaccination rate in Chile is relatively high; the percentage of the people who received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine was [about] 60%. Nevertheless, a big COVID-19 surge has occurred in Chile in Spring 2021, suggesting that the Lambda variant is proficient in escaping from the antiviral immunity elicited by vaccination."

The Lambda variant is thought to have emerged in South America, and has thus far been contained in 26 countries — including minor outbreaks in North America, Europe, and Asia. In the U.S., there have been fewer than 1,000 recorded Lambda variant cases. 

The World Health Organization has labeled Lambda a "variant of interest," as compared to the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta strains of the virus, which have all risen to the level of "variant of concern." 

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