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Scientists detect a new variant of the coronavirus in California spreading rapidly across the country

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Reportedly a new variant of coronavirus that is specific to California, has started spreading rapidly across the country and different parts of the world.

Just when the curve of the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases in California had begun to flatten, a new villain kicked into the league! A new variant of coronavirus that is specific to California has come into the picture. 

The variants that were determined earlier have been labeled as “variants of concern”. Each of these contains mutations making the virus more contagious and is capable of escaping the immunity guards of one’s body. The UK had shown early identifications of these variants,  followed by South Africa, Brazil, and Japan. 

Some other variants including the California variant, and those identified near Houston and Ohio, are being studied. Given that the viruses are used to undergo frequent mutation, these can pose a serious threat to public health if they become stronger by becoming immune against the vaccine, and the degree of their infectious nature becomes more severe.

Studies suggest that considering an upsurge in the coronavirus cases in California, the new variant seems to have become more common there.  The researchers doubt if the increasing number of cases is due to the new variant, although they are uncertain about it.

The researchers at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in California claim to have identified five coronavirus mutations as a part of CAL.20C strain of the virus. Eric Vail, who is the director of molecular pathology in the Pathology Department of the aforesaid hospital found that CAL.20C strain was recognized in nearly 36.4% of the COVID-19 cases of Los Angeles.

Eric Vail said in a statement, “The recent surge in COVID-19 positive cases in Southern California coincides with the emergence of CAL.20C.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that a CAL.20C variant that was earlier noticed in Denmark during March, was identified in California in May itself. 

As per the reports of Times confirmed cases of this variant, identified by genetic analysis have increased from 4% to 25% from the middle of December to the initial days of January. However, despite an increased number of identifications of this variant, the dynamics regarding its mutation remains vague.

Charles Chiu, MAD, who is a virologist, and a professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California says: “This is why it’s concerning. It is concerning that it may potentially be more infectious.”

The umbrella variant CAL.20C was recognized by the Cedars-Sinai researchers in various samples from California, New York, Washington DC, and in the foreign countries as well. Another researcher, Wenjuan Zhang, Ph.D., from Cedars-Sinai stated that the role of CAL.20C in the times ahead concerning the pandemic is yet to be determined.

“The hospital’s research team is not sure what the new findings mean in terms of the infectivity and antibody resistance of the CAL.20C strain, which is important for follow-up studies that will need to be completed,” she added.

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