MUSC: New COVID-19 variant found in SC

Coronavirus

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Evidence of the COVID-19 variant ‘lambda’ was recently found in a virus sample taken from a Greenville patient in April, according to scientists at MUSC.

According to a public database, over 600 cases of the lambda variant have been reported in the United States, six of which are in South Carolina.

MUSC’s Director of Molecular Pathology, Julie Hirschhorn, Ph.D., said that the variant likely hasn’t garnered much attention “because it’s not classified as a variant of interest or variant of concern by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

Dr. Brannon Traxler with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) agreed, saying “while this is something to monitor, the lambda variant is not as worrisome as the others at this time.”

The lambda variant is not something to discount, however, according to the World Health Organization, which has classified it as a variant of interest. MUSC Health infectious disease specialist, Dr. Scotty Curry, said that lambda is likely quite prevalent, and that he would “be surprised if it hasn’t been all over the place for a long time.”

While lambda does not appear to be the dominant variant in South Carolina, Curry said that variants in general are becoming the norm:

“There’s almost no plain COVID left. According to our most recent test, almost 97% of cases have a variant of interest or variant of concern.”

Curry attributes the high prevalence of variants to South Carolina being “a highly unvaccinated state,” with only six out of 10 eligible persons vaccinated.

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