ORLANDO, Fla. – Researchers are now studying a new COVID-19 variant recently discovered in a person in Texas.
“It’s not the Brazil variant, it’s not any of the other variants that people have heard of. It’s in a different spot and we don’t want this to slip under the radar and go undetected,” Ben Neuman, chief virologist at the Global Health Research Complex at Texas A&M said. “We’re trying to be an early warning system and pick up these things before they become a problem. What we found were three interesting mutants and I think the most interesting of these is one that we call the BV-1.”
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Neuman, also said the new COVID-19 variant they discovered is similar to the U.K. variant only the BV-1 has an extra mutation.
“The mutation is in a little spot right at the top of the spike protein, where the spike would attach to a cell to start an infection,” he said.
The new variant was found during a routine coronavirus screening in one of the students at Texas A&M University who has since recovered.
“The student had mild symptoms, but they lasted for a long time. Now, we don’t know for sure whether or not the length of the symptoms is something that’s gonna be characteristic for this because we only found it once,” Neuman said. “This is the first case we know about, but what viruses do, when there’s one there are always more. So, we know there were some people that had close contact with this particular case and we know there was a period of time in which this person did not know that they were infected and so potentially could’ve spread this.”
News 6 spoke via zoom with Dr. Todd Husty, medical director for Seminole County, about what local health officials will do next, now that a new variant has been discovered. Husty said it takes at least two weeks for standardized testing to be created, so states can begin the process of checking for the new variant.
“There’s not a lot that we can do right now about that variant from Texas. We know that we’re gonna be looking for it, we know that we don’t even have testing for it yet, but we will. I mean that means we need to get a test for it and we need to start looking at some of the samples of people being tested,” Husty said.
For medical experts this new variant raises concerns.
“Worst-case scenario it would spread really quickly like the U.K. variant as it has all those mutations but also be somewhat resistant to antibody therapeutics like things that they can give you in the hospital as well as potentially a little bit vaccine-resistant,” Neuman said. “There are bound to be more of these things out there. We’re essentially flipping over stones in the backyard and finding weird bugs at this point. Vaccination I think is still a really important tool in dealing not just with BV-1, but all of the new variants that are out there that we don’t yet know of.”
Husty said in order to prevent the virus from mutating, health safety guidelines need to stay in place.
“If the coronavirus lasts long enough, this SARS-2 coronavirus, if it lasts long enough there’s a likelihood that it will mutate to something that we’re no longer immune to if you’ve been vaccinated or if you’ve had the disease,” Husty said. “Cause if not, if it’s given enough time, it will more than likely mutate to something worse.”