(WSVN) - COVID cases are surging yet again. Experts say it’s all because of the Delta variant, but here in South Florida, there is another COVID mutation we need to closely watch and track. The Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek investigates.

In Colombia, morticians cannot keep up with the demand.

In Argentina, the pandemic death toll has topped 100,000.

And in Peru, there are more COVID deaths per capita than anywhere else in the world.

In all three countries, the Lambda variant is spreading fast.

Dr. Pablo Tsukayama, microbiologist: “It’s been a tragedy. At this point, every Peruvian has a close friend or close relative that has died of COVID.”

Peruvian microbiologist Pablo Tsukayama discovered the Lambda variant earlier this year. He spoke to 7 investigates from Lima.

Dr. Pablo Tsukayama: “Lambda has a unique combination of mutations. We are almost certain that this is something that is more transmissible.”

Nearly all COVID cases in Peru are now from the Lambda variant. So many in South America have had it, yet so little is known about it.

Dr. Michael Farzan, Scripps Research: “We don’t know how it ranks in terms of transmissibility and how it might impact the rate of hospitalizations, which are the two independent questions you ask every time a new variant emerges.

But, Dr. Michael Farzan of Scripps Research in Jupiter says our current vaccines should be pretty effective against Lambda. However, this variant has two unusual mutations on its spike protein. He says that could be the starting point for further mutation, which could eventually make the current vaccines not as effective.

Dr. Michael Farzan: “It’s just part of a natural progression going forward where these viruses will be smarter.”

The Lambda variant is already in Florida. That’s no surprise given all the flights arriving here from cities like Buenos Aires and Bogota. A total of 126 Lambda cases have been confirmed in the state, but the actual number is likely much higher.

Dr. David Andrews, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine: “I think it seems almost certain we are going to come across Lambda.”

Dr. David Andrews at UM’s Miller School of Medicine looks for mutations in samples from COVID-positive patients. He believes it’s only a matter of time before he spots the Lambda mutation inside his South Florida lab.

Dr. David Andrews: “What we don’t know is if it will displace Delta.”

It’s still not entirely clear how Delta and Lambda compare with each other, and while this might all sound scary, take it from the doctor who discovered Lambda.

Dr. Pablo Tsukayama: “It’s not something to panic about. I think the take home is that all these surges are happening in unvaccinated populations, that vaccines work.”

Yet another reason why doctors are urging Americans to get vaccinated. It’s a shot at protection against these new COVID mutations.


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