Lambda COVID Variant Detected in Texas Hospital

As it noticed a "spike" in the number of COVID-19 patients, a Texas hospital has reported its first case of the Lambda variant on Monday.

A patient at Houston Methodist Hospital was confirmed to be infected with the Lambda variant, which first emerged in Peru in 2020, KHOU11 reported.

However, the highly transmissible Delta variant continues to be responsible for most new cases in the hospital system.

"We're seeing an alarming spike in the number of COVID-19 cases across the Houston area, with the steepest increase happening over the weekend," Houston Methodist said in a statement. "The increased hospitalizations add stress to many of our hospitals that are nearing capacity."

Houston Methodist hospital in Texas
The exterior of the Houston Methodist Hospital is seen on June 09, 2021 in Houston, Texas. A patient at Houston Methodist Hospital was confirmed to be infected with the Lambda variant. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

In a press release, Houston Methodist said it had a little over 100 COVID-19 patients across its hospital system a week ago, but that number has now spiked to over 185. At least 85 percent of those patients have been diagnosed with the Delta variant and the majority of patients were unvaccinated.

In a recent statement, Houston Methodist urged Texans to get vaccinated, saying "far too many people" were choosing not to.

"If you're not yet vaccinated, now is the time," said Dr. Randall Olsen, the medical director of the hospital's Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory. "Vaccination will protect you from the Delta variant (and other variants), and, in the end, is our best way out of the pandemic."

The World Health Organization designated Lambda, also known as C.37, a "variant of interest" on June 14. The variant was first detected in Peru in August 2020 and has spread to at least 29 countries, including the U.S. according to WHO.

According to a tracker by GISAID, over 700 cases of the Lambda variant have been reported in the U.S.

But while the variant is rapidly spreading in South America, scientists say it is not yet apparent how much of a threat it poses.

"I don't think there's any more reason to be concerned than before we knew about this variant," Dr. Nathaniel Landau, a microbiologist at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine who is studying the new variants, told The New York Times earlier in July. "There's no reason to think that this is now something worse than Delta."

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is working to tackle a surge in COVID-19 infections around the U.S. in recent weeks, driven in part by large numbers of eligible Americans who have yet to get the vaccine. "Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated," President Joe Biden said Friday.

More than 161 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.