A new COVID-19 variant has been discovered by scientists at Texas A&M University’s Global Health Research Complex. The latest mutation exhibits signs of a more contagious strain that causes more severe illness and could be resistant to antibiotics.
The New BV-1 COVID-19 Variant Could Affect Younger Patients
After the student tested positive for COVID on March 5, a second test, conducted on March 25, also came positive, indicating that the new strain may cause prolonged infections in younger patients. By April 2, the student’s symptoms resolved, and a third test came back negative on April 9.
Researchers at Texas A&M say that cell culture-based experiments conducted by other labs have shown that several neutralizing antibodies had no effect in controlling other variants that possessed the same genetic markers as BV-1.
While the Texas A&M lab has identified many COVID mutations through its genetic sequencing program, the latest variant is particularly concerning, according to Texas A&M's Chief Virologist Ben Neuman.
“This variant combines genetic markers separately associated with rapid spread, severe disease and high resistance to neutralizing antibodies,” said Neuman.
Although the lab does not yet understand the full significance of BV-1, researchers believe that the variant “highlights an important need for rigorous surveillance and genomic testing,” particularly among young people who are often asymptomatic or show mild symptoms.
While most US labs sequence only severe COVID-19 cases, the Texas A&M lab is sequencing asymptomatic young adults to catch dangerous strains early before they can cause serious illness. Neuman stressed out that such testing is essential as it could provide an early warning for new dangerous variants.
The A&M scientists have submitted a paper on BV-1 to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. They said that the new variant is related to the U.K.’s B.1.1.7 strain, which current vaccines have proven to be effective against. The B.1.1.7 strain makes up the majority of all COVID-19 cases in the US.