A new “double mutant” variant of the COVID-19 virus that could potentially be more infectious has been confirmed for the first time in the United States, raising red flags for researchers.
The Stanford Clinical Virology Lab identified one case of the new variant — which first emerged in India — in California, officials announced to the San Fransisco Chronicle over the weekend.
At least seven other purported cases of the same variant are also under investigation in the Bay Area.
According to officials, the new strain has been dubbed the “double mutant” because it carries two mutations in the virus that helps it latch onto cells. The “double mutant” variant has been found in at least 20 percent of cases traced back to Maharashtra, India's hardest-hit state that has seen a new surge in cases.
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The announcement of the new variant comes as millions of Americans are getting vaccinated for COVID-19 under President Joe Biden's plan to have everyone vaccinated by the summer.
Officials said that the variant’s mutations is similar to one found on the COVID-19 variants first detected in Brazil and South Africa, and the other mutation is also found in a variant first detected in California.
“This Indian variant contains two mutations in the same virus for the first time, previously seen on separate variants,” Dr. Peter Chin-Hong said in the Chronicle.
“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.”
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