‘Double Mutant' COVID-19 variant discovered in the Bay Area

Posted at 3:04 PM, Apr 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-05 17:23:54-04

(WXYZ) — A "double mutant" COVID-19 strain that was first identified in India has now been found in California. While this case may be the first here in the US, seven more are suspected.

"Double mutant" means that a strain now has two mutations. So two mutations that were once only seen on separate variants, are now together to form one new strain. So while this double mutant was first identified in India, one of the mutations - called L452R - was already detected as part of the variant that was found in California. As for the second mutation, it’s called E484Q. And researchers say that it’s very similar to the mutations first found in Brazil and South Africa.

Does "double mutant" mean double the trouble? I wish I could say no, but we just don’t know enough about this emerging strain. What I do know is that many in the medical field, including myself, are concerned about it. Some experts have said that this variant is actually less forgiving. Having said that, there’s been no evidence to date that suggests this variant causes more severe disease. As for it being more transmissible, well India has seen a 50% rise in cases in one of the hard-hit areas where the variant accounts for 20% of the cases. So it’s possible it’s more contagious. Especially since the two mutations in this strain are known to help the virus latch onto and enter human cells. But again, we really need studies to learn more about this "double mutant" strain.

Scientists at the moment are saying that if someone is re-infected, they will likely have a mild case. As for vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines are expected to provide protection. However, there is no guarantee that vaccinated folks won’t get sick. But health experts do feel that the vaccines will keep folks from developing moderate or severe disease. In my opinion, people should not be too alarmed that we have a double variant. They are not considered rare. And it’s not uncommon to see more than one mutation. What’s important here, is that folks continue to get vaccinated, so we can get to herd immunity. And that leaves less room for the virus to mutate.

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