NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Variants of the novel coronavirus are teaming up, so to speak. A so-called “double mutant” is making headlines.
Dr. Bob Garry is a Tulane University virologist and microbiologist who reacted to the two mutations found in one virus.
“This one has two mutations that we’ve been looking at for a while and they are in some important parts of the molecule that lets the virus attach to cells, so we have to keep an eye on them,” said Garry.
Stanford researchers made the discovery and confirmed the double mutations. Lisa Kim, Senior Manager of Media Relations with Stanford Health Care said in an email to FOX 8, “The Clinical Virology Lab at Stanford Health Care identified and confirmed the newly described “India” variant last week. This variant has the L452R mutation found in the CA variant, as well as another significant spike mutation, E484Q. This same position is mutated to a different amino acid (K) in both the South Africa and Brazil (P.1 and P.2) variants.
One confirmed case by sequencing at Stanford, 7 presumptive by screening RT-PCR.
It’s not known yet if this variant is more infectious or is resistant to vaccine antibodies.”
Dr. Garry commented further on the double mutation.
“This so-called double mutant did come to us from India. It’s now in some parts of the United States,” said Garry.
The double mutant is believed to be fueling the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in India.
“Viruses mutate, it’s what they do. They can’t correct their mistakes and so sometimes you get a mistake in the virus that actually turns out to help the virus a little bit and that’s what these variants are doing. They’re popping up all over the world,” said Garry.
State Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter, who is Governor John Bel Edwards chief adviser on COVID-19 was also asked about the double mutant.
“These are going to be tracked, there’s going to be all sorts of variants out there,” said Kanter.
He said the state has ramped up genomic sequencing to discover and monitor variants of the virus.
“In-state, there’s a lot more genomic sequencing happening both in the state lab in Baton Rouge, with partners as well like LSU, Tulane, Ochsner, Pennington, all have the capability to do genomic sequencing now, so a lot more than we had really a couple of months ago but I think a lot more room to grow because this type of sequencing is going to be important not only for COVID but, you know, to build capacity for the next thing as well,” Kanter stated.
COVID-19 cases are increasing in more than two dozen other states and in New Orleans crowds of people were in close proximity of each other over the weekend.
Dr. Garry was asked about whether the public is missing or ignoring something important about the ongoing messaging related to the virus and vaccines.
“That’s absolutely correct. We’re at a very critical point here, in fact, we’re at a point where if everybody just kind of pulls in the same direction I think we’re going to be okay. The vaccines are coming along very nicely but we still need to keep up the social distancing, wearing the masks.”
He and Kanter say the double mutant discovered in the U.S. should not prompt panic.
“That sounds really scary, a double mutant but really a lot of the variants that have appeared have more than one mutation,” said Garry.
He said it is important to be vaccinated as soon as possible to combat the hold the variants can take in communities.
“The general public; don’t worry, go get your vaccine. The vaccines will still protect you against a single mutant, a double mutant, and hopefully all the mutants that are going to come down the line,” Garry stated.
Garry said manufacturers of the vaccines are already working toward that end.
“These new variants, single mutants, double mutants, the vaccines can and will be modified to address these as we go forward,” said Garry.
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