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Four cases of India 'double mutant' COVID-19 variant identified at Houston Methodist

Health officials say the India variant contains several mutations, which could make it more contagious and react differently to antibodies.

HOUSTON — Houston Methodist is monitoring big changes in the COVID-19 variants spreading in Houston.

Dr. James Musser runs the hospitals genome sequencing lab, which analyzes every COVID-19 sample among Methodist patients.

He says the B.1.1.7 UK variant is clearly dominant in Houston now, making up 75 percent to 80 percent of new COVID-19 cases. His team is also keeping a close eye on the India B.1.617 variant, which some call a “double mutant” variant.

“We’ve seen four of those now, so it’s clearly in our metropolitan area as well,” said Dr. Musser, chair of the Department of Pathology & Genomic Medicine.

Health officials say the India variant contains several mutations, which could make it more contagious and react differently to antibodies.

“That combination could be contributing – I stress could because it hasn’t been proven yet – could be contributing to the dramatic uptick in cases in India,” Dr. Musser said.

Dr. Musser said the only way to prevent more mutations of COVID-19 is through more vaccinations.

“This is a numbers game. We’ve got to get people vaccinated to a greater extent than they are now. It doesn’t matter if it’s here or in India. You name any country. That’s the key. That’s the road forward here,” he said.