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COVID-19 variant discovered in United States that is potentially resistant to antibodies

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Scientists at the Texas A&M University Global Health Research Complex have identified a variant of the COVID-19 virus — “BV-1” — that could present a new challenge to public health.

Although found in only one individual who had only mild symptoms, the Texas A&M scientists decided they should share information about the variant with scientists across the globe, according to a press release and a report by Boston 25 News.

“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 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,” Neuman 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.”

BV-1 is related to the UUK variant of SARS-CoV-2 which is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The “BV” stands for “Brazos Valley,” the seven-county region of Texas where Texas A&M and GHRC are located.

GHRC first detected BV-1 in a saliva sample taken from a Texas A&M student as part of the university’s ongoing COVID-19 testing program. The sample tested positive at GHRC on March 5. It was re-tested and confirmed at a federally regulated lab at CHI St. Joseph Regional Hospital.

The student later provided a second sample that tested positive on March 25, indicating the variant may cause a longer lasting infection than is typical of COVID-19 for adults ages 18-24. A third sample obtained on April 9 was negative and revealed no evidence of virus.

The student presented mild cold-like symptoms in early to mid-March that never progressed in severity and were fully resolved by April 2.

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