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Lambda and Kappa: We need to be “watchful”

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The emergence of black fungus is compounding India’s COVID-19 crisis. Image credit: tumsasedgars / 123rf

India needs to “be watchful” against the Lambda and Kappa variants of COVID-19, according to Dr Vinod K. Paul of government think tank Niti Aayog.

The COVID-19 pandemic has witnessed the emergence of several variants, including the Delta variant which has been found in multiple countries which first emerged in India. The Lambda and Kappa variants are now in the crosshairs, having spread to multiple countries.

In India’s case, the Lambda variant has yet to be detected in the country by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium of Genomics, according to Paul. The Kappa variant, meanwhile, has been detected in Uttar Pradesh at a similar time as the emergence of the Delta variant. “If cases are detected, this means that the variant has stayed in the country,” Paul said. “Delta is a related variant of Kappa. Kappa is much less in its intensity. There are many variants in the country. Not all cases are of Delta variant. Our watch will continue.” 

The World Health Organization (WHO) designated the Lambda variant (C.37) as a variant of interest on June 14th. It is believed to have originated in Peru. It is one of four current variants of interest. As Quartz explains, these variants “are characterised by the presence of mutations that are associated with increased transmissibility, severity of disease, or the ability to evade immunity from vaccines or past infections. 

“This does not mean that these variants have been yet confirmed to be more transmissible or to cause more severe infections—only that the genetic structure of the mutated virus points to the possibility of these happening. In addition to these criteria, variants of interest are also classified when there are known cases of community transmission or COVID-19 clusters.” The Malaysian government has said that the Lambda variant is more lethal than the Delta variant. 

According to the WHO, “lambda has been associated with substantive rates of community transmission in multiple countries, with rising prevalence over time concurrent with increased COVID-19 incidence.” Further investigations are underway. The variant is present in 29 countries, territories, or areas in five WHO regions. It is predominantly found in South America. 

In the case of the Kappa variant, the Uttar Pradesh state government is keeping an eye on the situation as it unfolds. “There is nothing to worry about,” said additional chief secretary for health in the state Amit Mohan Prasad. “This is a variant of coronavirus and its treatment is possible.” 

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