UCSF doctor weighs in on new COVID variant identified in Texas thumbnail

UCSF doctor weighs in on new COVID variant identified in Texas

Photo of Amy Graff

(FILES) In this file photo obtained on March 16, 2020 courtesy of The National Institutes of Health(NIH)/NIAD-RML, shows a 3D print of a spike protein of SARS-CoV-2also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19in front of a 3D print of a SARS-CoV-2 virus particle.

(FILES) In this file photo obtained on March 16, 2020 courtesy of The National Institutes of Health(NIH)/NIAD-RML, shows a 3D print of a spike protein of SARS-CoV-2also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19in front of a 3D print of a SARS-CoV-2 virus particle.

Handout/National Institutes of Health/AFP via Getty Images

Researchers at Texas A&M University identified a variant of the COVID-19 virus they say has genetic markers suggesting potential resistance to antibodies, according to a statement from 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,” Ben Neuman, a chief virologists at the university’s Global Health Research Complex, said. “This variant combines genetic markers separately associated with rapid spread, severe disease and high resistance to neutralizing antibodies.”

The so-called BV-1 is related to the B.1.1.7 variant that caused a surge in the United Kingdom, the university said.

Dr. Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine at UCSF, said she’s not concerned about this variant yet, as she has not seen the actual peer-reviewed data that it is resistant to antibodies.  

“There were reports initially that B.1.351 [the variant first identified in South Africa], and other variants were resistant to antibodies but those were reversed by other reports and the 6 month data on the Pfizer vaccine roll-out which showed 100% efficacy against severe disease, even with the B.1.352 variant,” Gandhi explained in an email. “Moreover, variants are covered by vaccines, specifically when considering T cell responses generated by the vaccines that are able to neutralize different variants.”

Texas A&M researchers identified a single case of the variant at the university’s Global Health Research Complex in a saliva sample taken from a Texas A&M student in early March.

The variant was named for the “Brazos Valley,” the seven-county region where Texas A&M is located. 

As the United States continues to issue vaccines, worrying variants are spreading and triggering surges in some states. California has thus far avoided a significant uptick in cases. The seven-day positivity rate in the state was 1.5% as of Wednesday, among the lowest in the country.