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The Lambda COVID-19 version is in Canada. How worried should Canada be?

The Lambda COVID-19 version is in Canada. How worried should Canada be?

Another COVID-19 variant, called lambda, has been identified in Canada - accounting for 11 cases in the country so far, according to Health Canada.

While there are still many unanswered questions about this particular type of virus that causes COVID-19, here's what we know so far.

Where did it come from?
According to the World Health Organization, this type was first identified in Peru in the summer of 2020, so it has been almost a year. As of June 15, 29 countries had reported cases, the WHO said, and this accounts for a growing share of cases in some South American countries such as Argentina and Chile.

How dangerous is this?
WHO calls lambda a "type of interest" - meaning that while they're tracking it, it's not yet a "concern type". To reach the "anxiety type" level, lambda must be more contagious, cause more severe disease, or be able to receive current vaccines and treatments.

Right now, we don't have that evidence yet, said Ashley Tuit, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto.

"I would say it's not particularly concerning at this point," she said. "I certainly wouldn't say it's more permeable than the alpha or delta variants which are far more common right now."

We are still learning about this version and what are its features, she said.

Health Canada does not currently list lambda as a variant of interest or concern, although the Public Health Agency of Canada is monitoring the version and research associated with it, they wrote in a statement to Global News.

However, there is some indication that lambdas may be more permeable, said Omar Khan, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and immunology at the University of Toronto's Temerty Faculty of Medicine.

"There are so many different types out there right now. And we look at the distribution and we're seeing that lambda is now starting to take a higher proportion of the overall proportion of coronavirus infections, which means it can be more communicable, "They said.

He said that does not mean that it makes people sick.

"Being highly transmitted does not mean that it causes more serious disease," he said. "It's still being observed. So we'll have to wait until that data comes out."

According to the WHO, there are some mutations in lambda that may make it more easily transmitted or more resistant to antibodies, but there is not yet much real-world data to confirm this.

Do vaccines still work against it?
A recent study released as a pre-print without peer review suggests that neutralizing the variant seems to be a bit difficult, yet mRNA vaccines protect against the lambda variant.

Again, it is too early to say conclusively, Tuet cautioned.

"There was a study that was done in the United States that suggested the immune response seemed to be slightly lower than in wild-type strains," she said. However, "the protective response to vaccines is ongoing."

However, it's possible that you need higher antibody levels to fight off lambda, similar to Delta, Khan said.

For one person, that means it's more important to get both doses of your vaccine, he said.

"It can really help maintain a higher antibody level and also give you better memory so that your immune system can react more quickly and produce more antibodies, and higher concentrations can be helpful. "

To prevent more potentially dangerous forms from emerging, he said, it is also important to vaccinate more people globally.

"The last thing we want to do is worry that more forms of anxiety have emerged and we need to redevelop a new vaccine to take care of a wildly different version of the coronavirus."

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