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Concerns Over Variant Found in California

Initial analyses indicate a SARS-CoV-2 variant uncovered in California may both be more transmissible and partially evade vaccine-induced antibody response, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The variant, dubbed B.1.427/B.1.429, began to rise in frequency in the state in September to now account for about half of all COVID-19 cases that have undergone sequencing there, and the University of California, San Francisco's Charles Chiu predicts at the LA Times it may represent 90 percent of cases in California by the end of March. 

According to the paper, Chiu and a team of researchers analyzed viral samples from various California counties in work that is to be posted to MedRxiv. Their analysis, it says, suggests B.1.427/B.1.429 is between 19 percent and 24 percent more transmissible. Further, lab-based tests suggest that the L452R mutation it has that affects its spike protein enables the virus to better bind to host cells, the LA Times reports. At the same time, it says other lab tests also indicated that B.1.427/B.1.429 elicits a lower neutralizing antibody response following vaccination or previous infection. 

The paper adds that the B.1.427/B.1.429 variant has also been tied to increased severe illness and death, though that could in part be due to overwhelmed hospitals.