Medical Experts Concerned ‘Double Mutant' COVID-19 Variant Is Spreading Rapidly

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A new COVID-19 variant named "double mutant" was found in the Bay Area recently and experts are concerned it may spread faster than others.

The variant was named "double mutant" because it contains two mutations of the virus, and its the first of its kind in the United States.

"It's exciting and it's also concerning at the same time," said Dr. Benjamin Pinsky, who discovered the first the variant in the Bay Area.

Pinsky is Stanford's Director of Clinical Virology and he discovered the case in the region only a day after it was first discovered in India.

"It was a bit surprising that it was already here," he said.

The new variant is responsible for a surge in coronavirus cases in a a region of India that includes Mumbai, and experts are worried the variant is spreading rapidly setting up an increasingly urgent race between variants and vaccines.

"The vaccines may be slightly less effective in preventing moderate disease or moderate illness with this particular variant," Dr. Pinsky said, "but the vaccines are still very effective and people should get vaccinated as soon as possible."

UCSF Doctor Peter Chin-Hong says the variant contains one mutation identical to the West Coast variant and a second one similar to variants first found in Brazil and South Africa.

"This variant in India - my gut sense is that it’s going to end up being more like the California variant and brushing against - and potentially sticking - but probably not like the UK variant, where it just bites and holds on and doesn’t want to let go," Dr. Chin-Hong.

So far, there's only one case of this variant confirmed in the country and the Stanford Lab is sequencing seven more presumed cases and is expecting results soon.

The California Department of Public Health told NBC Bay Area they're monitoring reports of this variant, but remain unclear on how significant it will be.

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