PALO ALTO (CBSLA) – As the coronavirus mutates into potentially more dangerous forms, scientists are ramping up efforts to detect new strains.
Stanford University has launched a major surveillance program to track virus variants in California.
“When the samples come to the lab, we screen them for COVID and if they’re COVID-positive we now proceed to screen them to see if any of these variants are present,” said Obadia Kenji, laboratory manager of Stanford University Clinical Virology Lab.
The Stanford lab has already detected a California strain that is responsible for about 30 percent of San Francisco Bay Area infections.
“It’s very important for us to know which variant is out there,” added Kenji. “Some of the variants have been linked to an increase in transmission of the virus. We don’t know if a variant can pop up that can lead to severe disease.”
Scientists are worried about a new variant discovered in South Africa, that may render the current vaccines available somewhat less effective.
“A number of viruses have these mutations that may impact their ability to be neutralized by the antibodies generated from vaccination, so they could impact the performance of the vaccines,” said Benjamin Pinsky, medical director of the lab.
Right now, less than one percent of positive specimens in the U.S. are being looked at for worrisome mutations. Stanford scientists hope to increase that number significantly.
(© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)