A new variant of the coronavirus first detected in Peru in December 2020 has become the dominant strain of Covid-19 in South America and has been discovered in 26 countries across the world, including the UK.
The Lambda variant has been considered a mutation “of interest” by the World Health Organisation since 14 June and was declared to be “under investigation” by Public Health England (PHE) nine days later.
Of most concern to scientists at present is its “potential increased transmissibility or possible increased resistance to neutralising antibodies”, indicating that it might prove more resistant to vaccines and spread faster, although PHE has so far said there is no evidence to support this fear.
But a study carried out on sufferers in Chile has found that it is more infectious than both the Alpha and Gamma variants, first detected in the UK and Brazil respectively.
A total of eight cases have been detected in the UK, as of the latest PHE update on 2 July, although that is thought to be an underestimate.
Four cases were from London, one was from the South West and one was from the West Midlands, the location of the other two were not disclosed.
Five of the six were linked to overseas travel and none have resulted in deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
This map charts the number of cases around the rest of world, based on the latest GISAID data available on 6 July 2021.
Chile is the worst-hit nation by the variant so far, suffering 840 cases, followed by the US (623), Peru (242), Germany (99), Mexico (98), Argentina (97), Spain (55) and Ecuador (51).
Germany and Spain aside, the strain has yet to gain a significant foothold in Europe at the time of writing, although the situation could swiftly change.
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