The Gamma variant, identified for the first time in Brazil, is predominant in Argentina, according to the Health Ministry’s latest SARS-COV-2 genomic surveillance report issued last Wednesday.
"In Argentina the circulation of the Gamma variant, originally identified in Manaos, predominates. In every region of the country, those variants causing concern are more prevalent than those which do not," indicated a Ministry communiqué.
The authorities reached that conclusion after analysing 1,077 samples of persons testing positive for Covid-19 and without antecedents of travel abroad, an analysis carried out by INEI (Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Infecciosas)-ANLIS.
"The most prevalent variants in every region of the country are: Gamma (Manaos) with 41 percent, Lambda (Andean) with 14 percent and Alpha (identified with Britain) with 11 percent," detailed the Ministry, updating the percentages in the previous report, and adding: “From the epidemiological analysis in the last few weeks it may be gathered that over 90 percent corresponds to variants of concern."
The Gamma variant also predominates among the passengers testing positive upon entry into Argentina, according to the genomic sequencing of 248 samples. This variant was detected in 89 passengers entering from Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Paraguay.
In 55 cases sequenced from passengers coming from the United States, Mexico, Spain, Bangladesh, Panama and Paraguay, the Alpha variant was isolated.
Only one single case of the Beta variant (identified in South Africa) was registered in a passenger coming from Spain while the Delta variant (originating in India) was identified in three passengers.
Argentina is heading towards 4.5 million cases of coronavirus contagion and 100,000 deaths in a country of 45 million inhabitants, of whom 42 percent have been vaccinated against Covid-19 but less than four million with a double dose.
What is known about the super-contagious Gamma strain emerging from Manaos
According to researchers from the Anglo-Brazilian Centre for the Discovery, Diagnosis, Genomics and Epidemiology of Arbovirus (Cadde in its Portuguese acronym), this Manaos strain, denominated P.1., transmits between 1.4 and 2.2 times more than the preceding strains,” according to the Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa of São Paulo state.
In late January another study by researchers from the Brazilian state lab Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz) had indicated that in individuals infected with P.1., the viral load in their bodies can be up to 10 times higher.
Regarding the risks of reinfection, in an important number of people already infected with coronavirus, scientists have pointed out that in 25-61 percent of the cases, this new Manaos variant can elude the immune system, causing a new infection.
“In only seven weeks, P.1. has turned into the most prevalent strain of SARS-CoV-2 in the region," said São Paulo’s Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa in early March. The Amazon variant, they maintained, underwent a period of rapid molecular evolution for unknown reasons.
Delta variant could represent 90 percent of new cases in Europe by late August
According to the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC), the Delta variant of coronavirus could be the cause of 90 percent of the new cases of Covid-19 in the European Union by late August.
"It is very probable that the Delta variant will circulate widely during summer, above all among younger people who have not been vaccinated," indicated ECDC director Andrea Ammon in a communiqué, underlining the need to advance inoculation campaigns "at a very rapid pace" to counter that threat.
She also described the administration of the second dose of one of the vaccines approved by the EU as "crucial."
Until now almost 211 million EU citizens older than 18 have received at least one anti-Covid jab while over 125 million individuals have completed the process of inoculation.
According to ECDC estimates, the Delta variant (registered for the first time in India last October) is 40-60 percent more contagious than Alpha, originally detected in Britain.