California’s coronavirus could be contagious and deadly

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A new strain of coronavirus, which was first identified in California, United States, has caught the attention of the scientific community. A preprint (academic study that has not yet been submitted to a journal) with laboratory studies and epidemiological data points out that this version can be even more infectious and lethal.

The variant has already spread to several US states and even other countries. Charles Chiu, lead author of the scientific work and a medical specialist in infectious diseases at the University of California, explained that the strain is associated with serious diseases that are resistant to neutralizing antibodies.

In the preprint of Chiu and his team, 2,172 genomes of virus samples that were collected between September and January from patients in 44 counties in California were sequenced. The strain, which is being identified by the records “B.1.427” and “B.1.429”, was compared with the other variants of the coronavirus and the conclusion of the initial study is that: the chance of the patient going to the ICU is 4, 8 times greater and the chance of death is 11 times greater.

The researchers also found that infected people had twice as many viruses in their noses as compared to the most widespread variants. This fact, combined with laboratory experiments of spreading the microorganism, shows that the version can effectively infect more.

Caution in the analyzes

Although experts warn that the situation needs to be monitored, other academics note that more clarification needs to be made about the new strain. The preprint led by Charles Chiu analyzes few absolute cases, for example.

“If I were a reviewer, I would like to see data from more infected people to substantiate this very provocative claim (that the variant is more lethal and infectious),” warned David O’Connor, a specialist in viral sequencing at the University of Wisconsin, in an interview to the journal Science.

The initial study is expected to be published in a scientific journal and analyzed by peers soon.

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