California's COVID-19 Strain Could Be The Most Worrying Yet, Say Scientists

A new homegrown variant of the coronavirus is causing concern for California scientists.

The variant, known as B.1.427/B.1.429, first emerged in California in May 2020 and was virtually nonexistent until October, according to the Daily Mail.

Now, recent studies are suggesting it has twice the viral load as originally circulating strains of the virus. Those studies also show that it spreads easier and could be up to 11 times deadlier than other variants.

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) looked at 2,172 samples of the virus they collected in California between September 2020 and January 2021. By January, the variant accounted for more than 50 percent of all the genetically analyzed COVID-19 samples, reports the Daily Mail.

However, the new research shows that the homegrown strain wasn't the main driver in California's spike in cases and hospitalizations during the fall and early winter.

Scientists also told the Los Angeles Times that the variant could account for 90 percent of all the state's infections by the end of March.

"The devil is already here," Dr. Charles Chiu, an infectious diseases researcher, and physician at UCSF told the LA Times. "I wish it were different. But the science is the science."

Another infectious disease expert from UCLA, Dr. Marc Suchard, said some of the recent findings at USCF would likely be refined with more virus samples and data.

“It remains critically important that we actively sequence the virus as cases are diagnosed in our state,” said Suchard. “I am glad to see such a collaboration between academics and public health departments in California to identify the emergence of a previously unidentified lineage.”

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