The world's most transmissible Covid-19 strain has found its way into Australia – with worrying research revealing it may be even more infectious than the Delta variant.
The Lambda strain has puzzled World Health Organisation scientists after it spread to nearly 30 countries in the last four weeks. The mutation was originally discovered in Peru and is related to 81 per cent of the country's cases since April.
Peru currently has the highest Covid mortality rate in the world.
In Australia, the variant was detected in an overseas traveller who had been in hotel quarantine in New South Wales in April, according to national genomics database AusTrakka.
Early research shows it has not spread among the community in Australia.
Lambda has just started to make its way into the community in the UK, with six cases reported on Monday.
It is a worrying sign for the UK, which has recently relaxed Covid-19 restrictions after 37 million people received at least one dose of a vaccine.
The country had returned to normality in recent weeks, with pubs flooded by revellers enjoying their country's recent success at Euro 2020.
However, these civil liberties could change if the highly transmissible Lambda strain spreads across the community.
Professor Pablo Tsukayama of Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, Peru, said the strain has exploded in Peru, suggesting "its rate of transmission is higher than any other variant".
His claims were backed up by a report by Jeff Barrett from London's Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Welcome Sanger Institute.
"Lambda has a unique pattern of seven mutations in the spike protein that the virus uses to infect human cells. Researchers are particularly intrigued by one mutation called L452Q, which is similar to the L452R mutation to contribute to the high infectiousness of the Delta variant," Barrett told the Financial Times.
There is also concerning research that current vaccines are not as effective in neutralising the new strand, according to a report from scientists at the University of Chile in Santiago.
"Our data show for the first time that mutations present in the spike protein of the Lambda variant confer escape to neutralising antibodies and increased infectivity," they wrote in a pre paper report published last week.