Researchers at Caltech and Columbia published preprints about discovering a new COVID variant calle B.1.526. They are yet to be peer-reviewed.
The Caltech researchers discovered the rise in B.1.526 by scanning for mutations in hundreds of thousands of viral genetic sequences in the GISAID database. Researchers also worry that the new variant carries a worrisome mutation that may weaken the effectiveness of vaccines.
The Columbia University researchers took another route to study this. They analyzed 1,142 samples from patients at their medical center. They found that 12 percent of people with the coronavirus had been infected with the variant that contains the mutation E484K.
However, neither of the research has been vetted by peer review nor published in a scientific journal. However, the consistent results suggest that the variant’s spread is real, experts said.
The New York Times reported that Anthony West, a computational biologist at Caltech, noticed a recurring pattern and a group of isolates concentrated in the New York region that was unseen before.
Both teams also reported on another variant, called B.1.427/B.1.429, which appears to be increasing in California. The variant could be more contagious and cause more severe disease, they said, but the research is still in the early stages.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.