Researchers Discover ‘Double Mutant’ Coronavirus Variant in California

FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. On Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, The Associated Press …

Researchers have reportedly identified a “double mutant” variant of the Chinese coronavirus in California, according to reports.

The Stanford Clinical Virology Lab identified at least one case of the variant, which it said originated from India, Lisa Kim, a spokesperson for Stanford Health Care, confirmed over the weekend. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, they are calling the variant a “double mutant” due to the fact that it “carries two worrisome mutations in a key part of the virus which help it latch onto cells.”

However, Kim said researchers do not know if the variant is more transmissible than the original virus, nor if the vaccine is effective against it, although some experts suspect it may be more infectious.

Per the Chronicle:

Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at UCSF, said it appears the variant could be more infectious because it accounts for 20% of cases in the heavily hit state of Maharashtra. Chin-Hong said cases have increased more than 50% there in the past week.

“It also makes sense that it will be more transmissible from a biological perspective as the two mutations act at the receptor binding domain of the virus, but there have been no official transmission studies to date,” he wrote in an email.

Chin-Hong said it’s too early to tell if the variant is more resistant to vaccine antibodies or can cause reinfections, but one of the variant’s mutations is similar to one found on the variants first detected in Brazil and South Africa, and the other mutation is also found in a variant first detected in California.

While he said there are not yet studies to back up the theories, he explained the variant contains “two mutations in the same virus for the first time, previously seen on separate variants.”

“Since we know that the domain affected is the part that the virus uses to enter the body, and that the California variant is already potentially more resistant to some vaccine antibodies, it seems to reason that there is a chance that the Indian variant may do that too,” he added.

The U.S. has identified thousands of cases of other virus variants over the past weeks, including the more contagious U.K. variant B.1.1.7. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. has reported 12,505 cases of the U.K. variant, 323 cases of the South African variant (B.1.351), and 224 cases of the Brazilian variant (P.1,), which is most prominent in Massachusetts.

The U.S. has reported over 30.2 million cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic, according to the CDC.


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