Japanese biologists have found that the “lambda” variant of COVID-19, which is spreading across several countries in South America, has the ability to hide from human immunity. This is reported in an article published in bioRxiv.
“We were able to show that mutations characteristic of this variation of SARS-CoV-2 protect the virus from the action of antibodies and make it more infectious,” the scientists said.
A group of molecular biologists led by assistant professor at the University of Tokyo, Kei Sato, tracked the penetration of the “lambda” variant of COVID-19 and its other new variations into cell cultures. As a result, the important role of three key mutations that are characteristic of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant was revealed.
Studies have shown that the “lambda” variant of the coronavirus was as active in infecting cells as various variations of the Indian strain “delta plus”, which are considered to be one of the most contagious forms of infection today.
It turned out that the increased infectivity of the “lambda” variant of the coronavirus is associated with two mutations – T76I and L452Q. Because of their appearance, the nature of the adhesion of the virus to the cellular receptor ACE2 was changed. The researchers also found that the particles of the new SARS-CoV-2 strain were less actively connected with the antibodies of vaccinated patients.
On average, to neutralize the “lambda” variant of coronavirus infection, approximately 1.5 times more antibodies are needed than to combat its other mutations. This feature of the virus is explained by the deletion of a significant part of its genome, which encodes the so-called NTD domain. This is what experts call a special region of the virus envelope where the S-protein is attached, which is responsible for penetration into the cell.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has previously identified the spread of the “lambda” variant of the coronavirus in more than 30 countries.
The lambda variation of SARS-CoV-2 (C.37) is now under special scrutiny due to several notable mutations in the strain, including L452Q and F490S. The World Health Organization has already classified the “lambda” variant as a closely watched variation. The WHO said mutations in the new COVID-19 strain are more infectious and increase antibody resistance, although there is not enough evidence to say for sure. The UK Department of Health is currently conducting laboratory tests to better understand how the new mutations have affected the behavior of the virus.