California appears to be battling a homegrown coronavirus strain which could be to blame for the recent surge and mounting death toll that has gripped the Golden State.
Scientists spotted a mutation, named B.1.426, while looking to see whether the highly transmissible United Kingdom variant had taken hold on the West coast of the United States.
The mutation occurs in the spike protein, the part of the virus that attaches itself to cells and causes illness, and the part targeted by Covid-19 vaccines.
It did not cause alarm when it was first recorded in July, until it began tearing through the populations in both Northern and Southern California during late November and December.
Now, two separate laboratories now believe that the acceleration in occurrences of the new variant may be to blame for California’s deadly Thanksgiving and Christmas surge because of its troubling mutations.
California is inching toward a crisis, with more than 3.1m cases and at least 36,790 deaths – figure that has doubled in less than three months. Los Angeles has emerged as one of America’s Covid-19 hotspots with two-thirds of its cases added since the beginning of November.