The virus, BV-1, was discovered in a single person who had moderate COVID-19 symptoms.
During lab experiments, researchers discovered that “several neutralising antibodies are ineffective in controlling other variants with the same genetic markers as BV-1,” according to the university.
“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 Global Health Research Complex (GHRC) Chief Virologist Ben Neuman. “This variant combines genetic markers separately associated with rapid spread, severe disease and high resistance to neutralizing antibodies.”
“We have not detected any more instances of this variant,” he added. “We have not grown or tested this virus in any way. This announcement is based purely on the genetic sequence analysis done in the lab.”
The BV-1 strain’s genetic make-up is similar to the original mutation discovered in the United Kingdom in September.
Since the latest strain made headlines just before Christmas, over 30 countries reported cases of the UK coronavirus variant within their territories.
According to research led by Imperial College London in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other UK-based educational institutions, the UK version seems to be more transmissible than the initial viral strain.
The individual who tested positive with the variant was a student at Texas A&M. School officials were alerted to the positive test after a saliva sample was taken from the student, as part of the school’s testing efforts, indicated a positive coronavirus infection.
The student presented with mild cold-like symptoms in March, according to the university; his condition did not worsen over time.
In view of the discovery, Texas A&M researchers notified both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and GISAID, a Munich-based scientific programme aimed at disseminating knowledge about the novel coronavirus to scientists worldwide.
Texas A&M researchers want to expand their investigation to see if there are any other troubling variants in the student body, including looking at potential asymptomatic cases of the disease on campus.
“Sequencing helps to provide an early warning system for new variants,” Neuman said. “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.”