New Double Mutant Coronavirus Variant From India Found In California For First Time

April 06, 2021

Story by Jada Sharp; Photo via Annie Mulligan for The Texas Tribune

Working hard to get more information on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Lisa Kim, Senior Manager of Media Relations for Stanford Health Care, shared the new discovery of the latest virus vairant to the public after the growing variant was confirmed by the Stanford Clinical Virology Lab. 

“The Clinical Virology Lab at Stanford Health Care identified and confirmed the newly described ‘India’ variant last week. This variant has the L452R mutation found in the CA variant, as well as another significant spike mutation, E484Q. This same position is mutated to a different amino acid (K) in both the South Africa and Brazil (P.1 and P.2) variants," she said.

The concerning news comes at a crucial time for California as they seemed to be reaching a turning point in the pandemic. The variant is labeled as a double mutant coronavirus Variant and was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. 

According to reports, “one of India variant’s mutations is like a key alteration first discovered in the so-called Brazil and South Africa variants. The other mutation is also found in a variant first detected in California, which is by far the state’s most widely-spread new strain.”

The development is highly alarming due to both variants showing expected harmful mutations especially when combined. 

“This Indian variant contains two mutations in the same virus for the first time, previously seen on separate variants,” Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at UCSF, told the Chronicle on Monday. “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.”

We have yet to determine if this variant is resistant to vaccine antibodies or more infectious. At the end of March, professionals were even more concerned about the spread of the U.K. variant than the double mutant, according to the AP.

“As of April 1, California was tracking five variants of concern, including the U.K. (B.1.1.7), Brazil (P.1 and P.2), South Africa (B.1.351) and, of course, its home grown West Coast variants (B.1.427 and B.1.429). “

Stanford’s Kim reported “one confirmed case” of the double mutant and “by [genomic] sequencing at Stanford, 7 presumptive by screening RT-PCR.” 

Although those numbers are not high, it’s important to look at those in respect to the number of test samples actually flagged for genomic analysis. Out of the over 55 million COVID-19 tests California has administered, less than 50,000 have been flagged for that purpose which means less than .01% has been tested for the double mutation. For a state with almost 40 million people, this data does not provide enough information to know the extent of the spread.

As one the new mutations is also found on one of California’s most widespread strains, officials continue to work to unveil more about the double mutation and its track.