Coronavirus in the USA: New mutant spreads in California

Status: 02/24/2021 6:10 p.m.

After the Corona mutations from Great Britain and South Africa, another one appeared in the USA: B.1.427 and B.1.429. A study now apparently suggests that the mutant could be more contagious and aggressive than the wild type.

Researchers in the United States are concerned about a new variant of the coronavirus that is spreading in Kailfornien state. It was first discovered in December by scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. It has since been detected in other US states. Individual cases have also surfaced in other countries, such as Australia.

More contagious and aggressive?

A study by the University of Californa in San Francisco (UCSF) now apparently suggests that the newly discovered virus variant B.1.427 or B.1.429 could be more contagious than the wild type and possibly cause more severe disease processes. This was reported by several US media citing scientists.

The study is currently unpublished. It has not yet gone through the usual independent review process prior to publication. According to the Los Angeles Times newspaper, it is currently being assessed by local health authorities. A preliminary online publication is expected by the end of the week.

Around 2000 samples sequenced

According to the science magazine “Science”, around 2000 corona samples from 44 California districts were sequenced as part of the study. They come from the period from September 2020 to the end of January this year. At the end of January 2021, the new virus variant already had a share of around 50 percent – it was not included in samples from September. The new variant was detected in 21.3 percent of the samples over the entire course of time. The mutant has apparently spread strongly regionally in just a few months.

The study also evaluates the disease progression of 324 people who were treated for Covid-19 at the San Fransicso University Hospital. Those infected with the new virus variant B.1.427 / B.1.429 were therefore almost five times more likely to need intensive medical treatment than those infected with the wild type. The reports were even eleven times more likely to die.

Apparently high viral load in infected people

In addition, according to the journal “Science”, the study shows that the viral load in the noses of those infected with the new virus variant is twice as high as usual. That too could make the mutant more contagious. It also apparently attacks human cells more aggressively and is less sensitive to antibodies generated against the wild variant than other virus variants. Ultimately, this could also affect the effectiveness of vaccines.

“This variant is very worrying because our data shows that it is more contagious, makes it more likely to develop severe disease, and is at least partially resistant to antibodies,” said Charles Chiu, an infectious disease and sequencing expert at the USFC and co-author of the study to the magazine “Science”. He even compares the Californian variant with the mutant B 1.1.7., First discovered in Great Britain, which had spread extremely quickly there and in other countries in recent months.

According to “Science”, however, some uninvolved researchers criticize the informative value of the study from San Francisco. This sometimes uses relatively small data sets.

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