'Double mutant' coronavirus variant is found in California
Key information given by the above report:
The same combination of these two mutations, known as L452R and E484Q, the latter of which is closely related to a more well-known mutation known as E484K.
The L452R mutation became well known in California as one found in the California variant (B.1.427/B.1.429), resulting in a strain that is believed to make the virus more infectious and might cause reduced immunity in people who have been vaccinated.
The E484Q mutation is closely related to the E484K mutation, which has been found in variants first identified in South Africa (B.1.351); Brazil (P.1 and P.2) and New York (B.1.526). The E484K mutation is also concerning because it might give the virus the ability to partly evade the immune system's protective response among inoculated people or those who have survived a conventional COVID-19 illness.
"What we don't know is how those [two mutations] will behave when they're put in the same virus," Pinsky said. "There's a reasonable amount of information about those [two mutations] individually. But will it be worse if they're together? We don't really know how they're going to interact."
The Stanford lab routinely performs genetic analysis for coronavirus specimens among COVID-19 patients in the Bay Area. They screen for three worrisome mutations: L452R, E484K, and N501Y. The N501Y mutation — thought to increase the transmissibility of the coronavirus — is found in the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7), as well as the South African variant and one of the Brazilian variants (P.1).