'Double Mutant' COVID Variant Discovered in California's Bay Area, Researchers Confirm
The emerging variant originated in India and is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States
A new and potentially more contagious variant of the coronavirus has been found in California's Bay Area.
One confirmed case and seven presumed cases of the variant, which originated in India, were detected by Stanford's Clinical Virology Laboratory, a spokesperson for Stanford Health Care told Fox News Sunday.
The new variant is being dubbed the "double mutant," as it carries two mutations of the virus.
Researchers discovered the mutations by scanning viral genetic sequences in Stanford patients. The new mutation is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States and potentially responsible for the surge of cases in India, according to NBC Bay Area.
While health officials believe there is a link between the variant and the increase in cases — India's Maharashtra state reported a 55 percent increase this past week — there have been no lab studies of transmissibility, according to The Mercury News.
It also remains unclear if the variant is more dangerous.
"There is no definite evidence that this double variant is more virulent or causes more severe disease," said Dr. Dean Winslow with Stanford University, NBC Bay Area reported.
The three vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — are presumed to be effective against the new variant.
"Most people will mount an immune response. Maybe it will not protect against an all-out infection but at least it will protect against moderate or severe disease," Winslow added.
Dr. Kavita Patel, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C., told CNBC that the new variant is "incredibly serious."
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The Indian variant is "something to watch very closely, and something that will not be limited to India," she said, adding, "It is probably just the tip of the iceberg in what we would worry about in Asia."
As of Monday morning, there have been more than 30.7 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and at last 554,579 deaths, according to data from The New York Times.
About 106.2 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including 61.4 people who have been fully vaccinated by the single-dose Johnson & Johnsons vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday.
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