A variant of the coronavirus identified in Southern California last year is now in 18 states and at least six other countries, according to researchers, who think this mutation has the potential to be more transmissible.
A study released Thursday found the so-called Los Angeles variant in 44% of samples from Southern California and 35% of samples from the whole state at the end of January. It was first identified in one sample in July 2020, and then not again until October, researchers point out.
While there were just four identified cases in Southern California in October 2020, within a few months, the Los Angeles variant has been found in 18 states, the District of Columbia, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Denmark and Israel.
The variant is distinct from the UK variant, B.1.1.7, and the South Africa variant, B.1.351.
However, like the other two variants spreading around the world, the Los Angeles variant, CAL20.C, has at least three mutations to the coronavirus’ spike protein that help it attach to human cells more firmly. This could make it more transmissible.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers are currently looking at whether the Los Angeles variant’s mutations cause more severe COVID-19 symptoms or increased transmissibility.