Kappa and Lambda – Newest Sars-CoV-2 Variants
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Context: Kappa and Lambda variants have been labelled as Variants of Interest (VoI) by World Health Organization.
- It is a variant that is linked to the B.1.617 lineage of mutations that has also given rise to the Delta variant.
- 1.617 has been found to carry more than a dozen mutations of which two stand out: E484Q and L452R, which is why this variant has also been called the “double mutant”.
- But as it evolved, the B.1.617 branched out into new lineages. One of those, B.1.617.2 is called Delta and is the most prevalent variant at present in India. The other lineage, B.1.617.1, is called Kappa.
- Kappa was first detected in India and more than 3,500 of the close to 30,000 cumulative samples submitted by the country to the GISAID initiative (which maintains a global database of novel coronavirus genomes, are of this variant) are of this variant.
- In the last 60 days, the Kappa variant has made up 3 per cent of all samples submitted by India. India, in fact, leads the GISAID table for Kappa submissions.
What is Lambda?
- The C.37 variant, better known as Lambda, its name as per the WHO designations based on the letters of the Greek alphabet, is the newest VoI identified by the UN health agency.
- The strain was first identified in Peru in December 2020.
- Lambda is the dominant variant in the South American country with 81% samples found to be carrying it.
- It is so far been detected in samples from about 26 countries shared with GISAID.
- India has not yet reported any case of Lambda Varient.
- The Lambda variant belongs to the B.1.1.1 lineage, which has been identified in as many as 29 countries, including in North and South America, Europe and Oceania.
- WHO has said that this variant has multiple mutations in the spike protein, which could have implications for how easily the virus spreads between people.
- Health officials in the UK confirmed that Lambda is linked with symptoms that are common with other variants and that there is currently no evidence that it causes more severe disease or renders vaccines less effective.
What is a Variant of Interest (VoI)?
- According to WHO, a VoI is one that “has been identified to cause community transmission/multiple Covid-19 cases/clusters, or has been detected in multiple countries”.
- This means that the genetic changes involved are predicted or known to affect transmissibility, disease severity, or immune escape.
Variant of Concern:
- Various national and international organisations such as CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention), COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium and Canadian COVID Genomics Network use the following criteria:
- A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, decrease in susceptibility to antiviral drugs, or diagnostic detection failures, increase in mortality, Increase in morbidity, Ability to infect vaccinated individuals, the ability of the mutant to evade diagnostic test, ability to evade natural immunity, increased affinity towards a particular demographic group.
- When one or all these criteria are met, then the variant is named as “Variant of Interest” or “Variant under Investigation”.
- After validation or verification, it is named as “Variant of Concern”.
- There are four – Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta – which have been designated as “variants of concern”, and are considered a bigger threat.
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