The Delta (B.1.617.2) variant of coronavirus, which led to the second wave of the pandemic in India in April and May, is now causing a spike in cases across the globe.
While the fight against the Delta variant is on, two emerging virus types, Kappa and Lambda, have put health experts on alert.
The Kappa and Lambda variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus were labelled as “variants of interest” by the World Health Organization (WHO) in April and June respectively. According to WHO, the variants of interest are the ones that “have been identified to cause community transmission/multiple COVID-19 cases/clusters, or have been detected in multiple countries”.
The two variants are also said to have multiple mutations in the spike protein, which could be a factor leading to the spread of the virus.
Here's what we know so far about Kappa and Lambda variants:
Kappa (B.1.617.1), a sibling of the Delta variant, has been found to carry more than a dozen mutations. This variant is referred to as “double mutant” because of its two identified mutations — E484Q and L452R.
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It has been found that Kappa's L452R mutation helps the virus escape the body’s natural immune response. The variant also has a sub-lineage — B.1.617.3 — which health experts are tracking closely.
Like the Delta variant, Kappa was also first detected in India. The variant has made up 3 percent of all samples submitted by India in the last 60 days to Munich-based GISAID, which maintains a global database of novel coronavirus genomes.
India has so far submitted the highest number of Kappa samples to GISAID, leaving behind nations like the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and others.
The Lambda (C.37) variant of coronavirus was first identified in Peru in August 2020 by Public Health England (PHE).
Though no cases of Lambda have been found in India yet, experts fear that opening up international travel may bring the variant to the country.
In its June 25 report, the PHE cautioned that Lambda has the potential of increased transmissibility and also possibly has increased resistance against antibodies. The variant belongs to the B.1.1.1 lineage and has so far spread to as many as 29 countries, mostly in Latin America.
Meanwhile, the effectiveness of existing vaccines is yet to be tested on the two new variants. Researchers are carrying out genome sequencing of the emerging variants to understand their symptoms and severity.
(Edited by : Kanishka Sarkar)