Scientists in Texas have identified a variant of the coronavirus that could pose a challenge to patients and health care workers trying to treat them.
Texas A&M scientists say the variant, which they call BV-1, has only been found in one person with mild symptoms at this time. It was discovered in a student’s saliva sample taken as part of the university’s ongoing COVID-19 testing program.
However, they felt it was important to tell the scientific community because experiments suggest antibodies are ineffective in controlling variants with the same genetic markers as BV-1.
“We do not at present know the full significance of this variant, but it has a combination of mutations similar to other internationally notifiable variants of concern,” said Texas A&M’s Global Health Research Complex Chief Virologist Ben Neuman.
“This variant combines genetic markers separately associated with rapid spread, severe disease and high resistance to neutralizing antibodies.”
Scientists say the BV-1 variant is related to the coronavirus variant identified in the United Kingdom.
The student’s sample tested positive for COVID-19 on March 5, he then provided a second sample on March 25 that also tested positive. A sample taken on April 9 came back negative. Scientists say this 20-day stretch with two positive COVID-19 results may indicate a longer-than-typical infection for this variant.
The student told scientists he had mild “cold-like symptoms” in mid-March and they were gone by April.
“Though we may not yet understand the full significance of BV-1, the variant highlights an ongoing need for rigorous surveillance and genomic testing, including among young adults with no symptoms or only mild symptoms,” Neuman said.
Texas A&M’s lab has found “scores” of coronavirus mutations in recent weeks, they said, as part of their widespread genetic sequencing program that includes samples from a wide range of students and patients.