The Lambda variant (lineage C.37) of SARS-CoV-2 was identified in Southern Brazil. This was found to have high prevalence in some south America. In view of high rates of transmissibility across south America, this variant was declared to be a variant of interest or variant under investigation (VOI) by WHO on June 15, 2021.1,2
The Lambda variant has critical mutations in spike proteins. The impact of the mutations on infectivity and immune escape from neutralising antibodies were unknown. A recent study indicates that the mutations in the spike protein of Lambda variant increases infectivity and immune escape from neutralizing antibodies.3 This information makes genomic studies of the mutants and immunological studies an imperative including studying if the existing vaccines are effective against the variants.
In view of this finding, it is normal to wonder if the current vaccines against COVID-19 will remain effective against the new variants like the Lambda which has critical mutations in the spike protein. It is argued that the existing vaccines should provide at least some protection against the new variants because the vaccines trigger a broad immune response in which range of cells and antibodies are involved. Hence, vaccines would not become completely ineffective because of mutations in the spike protein. Further, there is always the possibility of fine-tuning the antigenic nature of the vaccines to cover the mutations for protection against the variants.4
- Wink PL, Volpato FCZ, et al 2021. First identification of SARS-CoV-2 Lambda (C.37) variant in Southern Brazil. Posted June 23, 2021. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.06.21.21259241
- Romero PE, Dávila-Barclay A, et al 2021.The Emergence of SARS-CoV-2 Variant Lambda (C.37) in South America. Posted July 03, 2021. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.06.26.21259487
- Acevedo ML, Alonso-Palomares L, et al 2021.Infectivity and immune escape of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant of interest Lambda. Posted July 01, 2021. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.06.28.21259673
- WHO, 2021. The effects of virus variants on COVID-19 vaccines. Available online at https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/the-effects-of-virus-variants-on-covid-19-vaccines?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIyvqw5_zQ8QIVCLqWCh2SkQeYEAAYASAAEgLv__D_BwE Accessed on 07 July 2021.