A homegrown coronavirus strain that emerged in California is more contagious and shows higher resistance to antibodies from COVID-19 vaccines, scientists have warned.
Researchers from the University of California San Francisco said the new variant has dangerous implications and should be considered one “of concern” on par with from United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“The devil is already here,” Dr. Charles Chiu, who led the study, told the outlet. “I wish it were different. But the science is the science.”
In the team’s unpublished findings, it suggests that the variant is about 19 percent to 24 percent more transmissible, the outlet reported.
Over a period of just five months, the new strain grew to account for more than 50 percent of all coronavirus samples being used for genetic sequencing in the state, Chiu said.
The strain was also determined to be more resistant to neutralizing antibodies — which raises serious questions about how much vaccines will be able to protect against it.
Compared to prior strains, the effectiveness of neutralizing antibodies against the variant was reduced to half its usual levels, the study found, according to the LA Times.
Chiu said the variant will likely account for 90 percent of the state’s cases by the end of the month.
Similar to the United Kingdom and South Africa strains, the variant features a mutation to its spike protein — the part of the virus that makes it infectious, the newspaper reported.
Scientists recreated the mutation in a lab and found that it was able to infect human lung tissue about 40 percent more readily, the outlet reported.