The Lambda variant of COVID-19 could become a new dangerous mutation. Researchers have provided new evidence that it may be neutralizing vaccines while being as contagious as the Delta variant.

New York Post on Thursday, Aug. 12, cited a report on bioRxiv released late July, in which researchers from Japan sounded the alarm on the Lambda variant.

According to their study, which awaits peer review before being published, Lambda has proven as virulent as Delta thanks to a similar mutation that makes them even more contagious.

The Lambda variant has been detected in 26 countries and is currently spreading in South American countries like Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador.

The study showed that the vaccination rate in Chile is relatively high, with the percentage of the people who received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine reaching about 60%, but a big surge of COVID-19 cases has occurred in the country in spring 2021.

That means “the Lambda variant is proficient in escaping from the antiviral immunity elicited by vaccination,” the researchers warned.

The Lambda variant is thought to have emerged in South America between November and December 2020. It has since turned up in countries throughout Europe, North America, and a few more isolated cases in Asia, according to GISAID data.

However, in the United States, the proportion of the Lambda variant among COVID-19 cases is low, with more than 900 cases, or just one-tenth of 1% of the total cases. In comparison, Delta had infected nearly 78,000 Americans by that time.

“In addition to increasing viral infectivity, the Delta variant exhibits higher resistance to the vaccine-induced neutralization,” the researchers said. “Similarly, here we showed that the Lambda variant equips not only increased infectivity but also resistance against antiviral immunity.

“These observations suggest that acquiring at least two virological features, increased viral infectivity and evasion from antiviral immunity, is pivotal to the efficient spread and transmission in the human population,” they wrote.

While the Lambda variant is thought to be vaccine-resistant, another study from data analytics company nference found that the efficacy of Moderna’s vaccine fell from 86% in January to 76% in July 2021, while Pfizer’s vaccine effectiveness declined from 76% to 42% in the same period.