A new strain of the COVID-19 virus has been identified by a team of scientists at Texas A&M University Global Health Research Complex. The strain could prove to be more contagious and resistant to neutralizing antibodies.

Scientists who discovered the BV-1 variant — named after the Brazos Valley region where Texas A&M and the research center are located — said the mutation was found in only one person, but concerning the researchers was its similarities to the U.K. B.1.1.7 strain of COVID-19.

“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,” Global Health Research Complex Chief Virologist Ben Neuman said in a statement. “This variant combines genetic markers separately associated with rapid spread, severe disease and high resistance to neutralizing antibodies.”

The BV.1 mutation was detected via a saliva sample taken from a Texas A&M student as part of the university’s ongoing coronavirus testing program. The student’s test sample was positive for the virus on March 5.

The student, who resides off-campus, was given a second COVID test on March 25 that was also positive for the virus, which has led scientists to believe indicates that the BV-1 variant may have a longer infection period for adults aged 18 to 24.

On April 9, a third COVID test was given to the student, which was negative, showing no signs of the virus.

During the infection period, the student had mild, cold-like symptoms that never progressed, the researchers said.

While no other cases of the BV-1 variant have been found at this time, the scientists at GHRC have performed genetic sequence analysis in-lab on the sample and are watching closely for more student cases involving the BV-1 strain, giving its “potentially concerning genetic make-up.

According to the scientists at the Global Health Research Complex, it is performing genetic sequencing on asymptomatic students to find concerning mutations of COVID-19 before they can cause severe illnesses.

“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.”

A paper on the BV-1 variant was submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta by the research team at the Global Health Research Complex.

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