HOUSTON — As the Lone Star State continues to deal with the proliferation of the highly contagious delta COVID-19 variant, a Texas hospital system is reporting the state’s first case of another variant.
ABC News and Houston media report Houston Methodist Hospital, which operates eight hospitals, confirmed the first Texas case of the lambda variant on Monday.
According to the World Health Organization, lambda is now a “global variant of interest.” First detected in Peru, the variant has spread to 31 countries, WHO reports.
A variant of interest is defined as one that has mutations that are known or predicted to affect transmissibility and severity of disease, among other factors.
Like the delta variant, lambda’s mutations make it easier to latch onto our cells and invade them. Also like delta, it’s believed that current vaccines are effective against lambda.
Despite the diagnosis, it continues to be the delta variant that’s fueling the resurgence of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Texas.
Mutations can occur any time the virus replicates. This is what concerns researchers about large undervaccinated regions in the U.S., including a significant cluster of counties in Texas that extends roughly from the central part of the state through the Panhandle. If the virus is permitted to spread unchecked, there is opportunity for more potentially dangerous variants to emerge.