Radoslav Zilinsky moment | Getty Images
Scientists at Texas A & M University’s Global Health Research Complex have reportedly discovered a new variant of Covid-19 that shows signs of an infectious strain that causes more serious diseases and appears to be resistant to antibodies.
The new variant BV-1, named for its Brazos Valley origin, was found during routine coronavirus screening by Texas A & M via a saliva sample in a young student with mild symptoms of cold. The student tested positive for Covid on March 5 and tested positive again on March 25, showing that the new strain can cause prolonged infection in younger people. The student’s symptoms resolved by April 2nd and a third test on April 9th was negative.
Texas A&M scientists say cell culture-based experiments from other laboratories showed that multiple neutralizing antibodies did not affect the control of other variants with the same genetic markers as BV-1.
“We don’t currently understand the full meaning of this variant, but it has a combination of mutations that are similar to other internationally notifiable variants,” said Ben Neuman, chief virologist at Texas A&M. “This variant combines genetic markers that are separate with faster Spread, serious disease and high resistance to neutralizing antibodies are linked. “
The scientists also say they presented a paper on BV-1 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to alert officials before it spreads further.
The lab has identified many Covid mutations through its genetic sequencing program, but Neuman said the genetic makeup of this strain is of particular concern.
“We haven’t seen any other cases of this variant,” added Neuman. “We have not grown or tested this virus in any way. This announcement is based solely on genetic sequence analysis performed in the laboratory.”
Many U.S. labs only sequence severe Covid cases, but the Texas A&M lab tests and sequences asymptomatic students to detect dangerous strains early before they can cause serious illness.
“Sequencing helps provide an early warning system for new variants,” said Neuman. The lab’s scientists say they do not yet understand the full meaning of BV-1, but believe the variant “highlights an important need for strict surveillance and genomic testing,” especially in young adults who are asymptomatic or who show mild symptoms .
Scientists at the lab say the new variant is related to strain B.1.1.7 from the UK, against which current vaccines have been shown to be effective. The related British strain makes up a large part of the variant infections in the United States