COVID-19 variants found in UK, Brazil now detected in Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- After hundreds of samples by the Stanford Clinical virology Laboratory, the variants found in the UK and Brazil were also detected in the Bay Area.

"These variants are present in the community," said UCSF's infectious disease Dr. Charles Chiu.

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Inside Stanford's Clinical Virology Laboratory, Dr. Benjamin Pinsky and his team found the two strains.

"It's in about 17% of the samples that we've sequenced," said Dr. Pinsky.

ABC7 News got an exclusive look at the Stanford lab where researchers screened hundreds of samples collected across the Bay Area.

"I'm not too surprised that its progression but certainly all the twist and turns have kept everyone on their toes," said Dr. Pinky.

Almost a month ago, UCSF's Dr. Charles Chiu found the California variant in the Bay Area. Dr. Chiu says it was just a matter of time for researchers to detect these two variants in our region.

VIDEO: COVID-19 cases are down in SF, but doctors fear new variant could cause surge any day
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COVID-19 cases are going down in San Francisco, but doctors are not letting their guard down. There is concern as new variants of the virus have been spotted across the globe, causing a deadly spread.

"How would you compare the UK, Brazil and the California variants?" asked ABC7's Luz Pena.

"One of the key aspects the variants have in common is that all of them have mutations in the spike protein. That is the critical region of the virus that bines the cells and allows the virus to infect cells and as a results mutations in the spike protein have been associated with making the virus more transmissible," said Dr. Chiu.''

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Dr. Chiu stressed the importance of ongoing vigilance surveillance using genomic sequencing as a way to find what the variants that are circulating in our communities are.

"It's not unexpected that we would start to see cases and very likely will start to see an increase in number of cases in the days to come," said Dr. Chiu.

Luz Pena: "Which one is these variants is the most infectious?"

Dr. Chiu: "We don't know at this point which is the most infectious. It has been demonstrated that the UK variant and the South African variant are more transmissible that other strains."

As the virus continues to mutate, Dr. Chiu says we need to strategically increase vaccination efforts.

"We don't know which variant may become the predominant linage. Although certainly the variants that are more infectious are more likely to become more frequent and predominant," said Dr. Chiu.

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