An emerging coronavirus variant that experts believe to be partly responsible for the surge in cases in India has now been found in California.
The Stanford Clinical Virology Lab identified one case of the “double mutant” variant in the Bay Area and is screening seven other possible cases, spokesperson Lisa Kim told the San Francisco Chronicle. The new strain carries two mutations that help it latch onto cells, hence its “double variant” name.
The new variant has been found in 20% of cases in Maharashtra, India, a state where cases have risen 50% in the last week, according to Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at the University of California – San Francisco. Chin-Hong said experts do not yet know if the variant is resistant to the vaccine, but added that it being more transmissible “makes sense.”
“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,” Chin-Hong told the Chronicle.
Recently, larger cities throughout India have been toying with stricter lockdown measures as cases have spiked in recent weeks. The country has now has the third-largest number of cases behind the U.S. and Brazil, according to Reuters. The state of Karnataka, too, has seen several new guidelines, including shuttering gyms and prohibiting religious functions, while places like movie theaters and restaurants are operating at limited capacity.
Several other recent COVID-19 variants have also been discovered in the United States – including variants from the UK, South Africa and Brazil.