“We actually found this variant by chance while doing genomic surveillance specifically looking for variants that emerged from the UK. In the variant screening process we did note that we saw cases of this variant in California,” said Dr. Charles. Chiu, Director of the Abbott UCSF Center for Viral Discovery and Diagnostics.
Immediately after his discovery, Dr. Chiu notified the state health department.
“Initial cases appear to have emerged from California in July. It was really at baseline until about a month ago maybe mid-November when we started seeing an increase in variant cases,” Dr. Chiu.
Currently, several cases of this variant have been seen statewide.
“The variant has increased from less than 5% to more than 25%. One quarter of cases,” said Dr. Chiu.
The variant found in the UK spreads between 30% and 70% faster than the others. Dr. Chiu said they were still studying the CA variant and its transmission rate, and hoped its findings would encourage scientific surveillance systems to catch this variant more quickly.
“We don’t have a strong, systematic genomic surveillance system,” and Dr. Chiu added, “This is what we really need because we need to define and have a rigorous system, a surveillance system that we can identify with what percentage of these strains in our community may be the variance of concern.”
Feather Light: “Are you projecting that as the virus continues to mutate, the vaccine should change too?”
Dr. Chiu: “There will likely be variants that require the vaccine to be modified and perhaps a new vaccine will have to be developed and tested for use against this new variant.”
Feather Light: “How do you compare the variants found here in California to those found in England?”
Dr. Chiu: “The variant in the UK has a specific mutation called N501Y. This is a mutation that is considered a critical mutation that makes it more infectious and more infectious.
The variant in California has a total of 3 mutations in the spike protein. One of them is a mutation different from the one in England “
When Dr. Chiu and his team continue to collect data, they are worried because the virus continues to mutate.
“Our concern is that what triggers and spreads this variant is actually the increasing number of cases. Because with each additional case, the virus has an additional chance of mutating into a new variant,” said Dr. Chiu.
According to Dr. Chiu at least 10 counties in California have reported cases of the CA variant found by his team.
Dr. Chiu said that the most effective way to stop these mutations is to vaccinate as many people as possible and quickly.
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