LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Researchers have detected a variant of coronavirus, first found in South America, in wastewater in southern Nevada, suggesting it is spreading in the community.

Scientists at UNLV have found the Lambda variant, or C.37, in samples, Dr. Edwin Oh, an associate professor at the school’s Neurogenetics and Precision Medicine Lab, told the I-Team.

Southern Nevada Water Authority scientists take samples from wastewater to see how much coronavirus is in our sewer system. Oh and other researchers analyze the samples, which help public health leaders find spikes and clusters before they can be identified through traditional testing methods.

Coronavirus primarily affects our lungs, but the virus also causes secondary infections of the gastrointestinal tract. As the virus duplicates and is shed out of our bodies, some identifiable factors show up in our waste.

The amount of genome copies per liter collected was below 10,000 at the start of the pandemic. During the first week of January, the amount rose to nearly 1 million copies per liter around the same time case counts peaked.

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 climbed by more than 50 from Tuesday to Wednesday, increasing to a total of 584. Nevada reported 453 new cases, with 347 from Clark County in the past day. Two of the three additional deaths reported in Nevada on Tuesday were from Clark County.

Interestingly, the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory sequenced a sample of the Lambda variant on June 2, a spokesperson confirmed. The variant has not shown up in any samples since. The lab only sequences a portion of cases each week.

The majority of the hospitalized patients in Nevada are unvaccinated, according to the Nevada Hospital Association. A recent Associated Press analysis found nearly 100% of hospitalized COVID patients in the United States were not vaccinated.

Early analysis appears to show that current vaccines protect against the Lambda and other variants.

The variant appeared in the United Kingdom several weeks ago. Health officials there wrote in part, “There is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective.”