All viruses, including the coronavirus or the SARS-CoV-2, often undergo a morphological change over time. While some changes are not significant, any viral D.N.A change can lead to a change in the virus’ properties. This, eventually, impacts how the virus spreads, its disease severity, and vaccines’ efficacy. Both Delta and Lambda are the newest COVID-19 variants, flagged as variants of concern that cause severe symptoms of the coronavirus disease. Interested to learn more? Here is a detailed overview.
What is Delta Variant?
The Delta variant was first discovered in India during late spring. Unlike its other siblings (Alpha, Beta, and Gamma), the Delta is a double-mutant and a highly transmissible variant. Due to the nature of this strain, it has become the most dominant strain across the globe lately. When compared to the previous iterations of the viral strain, this particular one has shown severe symptoms, more hospitalization, and death globally. This SARS-CoV-2 variant has been circulating worldwide since early spring and now dominates coronavirus infections in the U.S.A.
What is Lambda Variant?
While the lambda variant, or “C.37,” was first detected last year in Peru, South America, the strain has now become a variant of interest. The lambda variant was flagged by the World Health Organization in late June. After the noticeable spread of the viral strain and its high transmissibility rate, this Peruvian variant is now a COVID-19 strain to watch for. Recently, a few cases of the Lambda strain were detected in the USA.
Does the Delta Variant Evade Vaccines?
Based on several studies and reports published by the vaccine production companies, most COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the Delta variant. However, both CDC and WHO still warn that it’s still possible to get infected even after taking the vaccine, but the vaccines dramatically reduce the risk of disease severity, serious respiratory illness, hospitalization, and death.
WHO’s Variant of Interest
With periodic tracking and through research, WHO puts out a new list every few weeks that lists the variants of interest. The list is based on detailed studies on SARS-CoV’s specific genetic markers associated with receptor binding changes. These genetic changes make the virus strain more invasive and reduce the variant’s neutralization by the generated antibodies produced during the previous infection or vaccination. Here is the latest list released by WHO. Most COVID-19 variants listed here are under continuous watch for their increased transmission rate or disease severity.
WHO’s Variant of Concern
Based on the researchers’ report, if a strain increases transmissibility and causes more severe disease, WHO lists them under its variants of concern list. The strains listed as variants of concern often cause increased hospitalizations or deaths due to severe COVID-19 respiratory illness. Such variants exhibit a significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during the previous infection and may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines and COVID-19 treatments or diagnostic detection.
What Should We Do?
While most states in the USA have revoked the mask mandates and supported businesses to fully reopen in May and June, the increased COVID-19 infections now bring up the question of public health and safety. To avoid another COVID-19 wave in the United States, mask mandate, stay-at-home orders, and limited capacity in public places are highly encouraged.
C.D.C.’s SARS-CoV-2 Variant Surveillance:
Since November 2020, the C.D.C. is constantly monitoring the new SARS-CoV variants by thoroughly examining the samples from state health departments and other public health agencies. The variant surveillance includes genomic sequencing, further characterization, and evaluation to detect and identify the newest and contagious variants of concern. The routine analysis of genetic sequence data further helps the C.D.C. and its public health partners to identify and characterize variant viruses and work towards treatment.
This genomic surveillance of emerging variants can help with:
- Early detection of the new strain
- Minimize the spread of the virus
- Understand the virus’ behavior and reaction towards the vaccine
- Understand if the new variant can evade detection or some specific diagnostic tests
Read our blog on Workplace Safety in The Delta Variant World!
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