COVID-19 News: University Of London Study Confirms That New U.K. SARS-CoV-2 Variant B.1.1.7 Is More Deadly!
: Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine have in a new study confirmed that the new U.K. SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 is more deadly contradicting earlier claims that it was only more infectious but may not cause more severe illness.
The B.1.1 7 variant
also known as VOC 202012/01 was first detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020 and has since then spread to multiple countries worldwide.
In the United States it is becoming a worrying issue as the new variant spread is literally doubling every ten days and experts predict that by March, it will become a dominant strain in circulation.
Numerous studies have established that this novel variant is more transmissible than preexisting variants of SARS-CoV-2, but have not identified whether the new variant leads to any change in disease severity.
The study team analyzed large database of SARS-CoV-2 community test results and COVID-19 deaths for England, representing approximately 47% of all SARS-CoV-2 community tests and 7% of COVID-19 deaths in England from 1 September 2020 to 22 January 2021.
Fortuitously, these SARS-CoV-2 tests can identify VOC 202012/01 because mutations in this lineage prevent PCR amplification of the spike gene target (S gene target failure, SGTF).
The study team estimated that the hazard of death among SGTF cases is 30% (95% CI 9–56%) higher than among non-SGTF cases after adjustment for age, sex, ethnicity, deprivation level, care home residence, local authority of residence and date of test. In absolute terms, this increased hazard of death corresponds to the risk of death for a male aged 55–69 increasing from 0.56% to 0.73% (95% CI 0.60–0.86%) over the 28 days following a positive SARS-CoV-2 test in the community. Correcting for misclassification of SGTF, the team estimates a 35% (12–64%) higher hazard of death associated with VOC 202012/01.
The study findings suggest that VOC 202012/01 is not only more transmissible than preexisting SARS-CoV-2 variants but may also cause more severe illness and also increase mortality rates.
The study findings were published on a preprint server and are currently being peer reviewed. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.02.01.21250959v1
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, new variants have emerged, causing concerns vaccines may not work quite so well against some of them.
In Britain the SARS-CoV-2 variant, called the variant of concern VOC 202012/01 or B.1.1.7 emerged, and has gained a foothold across the globe.
Numerous countries are reporting a sudden surge of cases tied to this new variant.
Scientist from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine revealed that the VOC 202012/01 variant is not only fast-spreading and easily transmissible but also may cause more severe illness.
British health experts only reported the presence of a new variant in December 2020. Initial reports based on limited
preliminary evidence showed that the variant is more infectious but may not cause more severe illness. Later, another new variant was discovered in South Africa.
Although the U.K. variant was reported to the World Health Organization on December 14, 2020, it has been spreading since September 20.
The new study findings show that not only is the new variant is easily transmissible, but it also increases the risk of severe disease.
The study team analyzed a large database of SARS-CoV-2 community test results and COVID-19 deaths for England to arrive at the study findings.
This dataset represented about 47 percent of all SARS-CoV-2 tests, and 7 percent of COVID-19 deaths between September 1, 2020, and January 22, 2021.
The diagnostic tests used in the study can detect mutations like the VOC 202012/01 because mutations in this lineage avert polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of the spike gene target.
The research analysis focused on deaths within the first 28 days after receiving a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Clinical evidence shows that infection with the new variant may be tied to higher viral loads, as measured by Ct values detected during a PCR test.
More significantly, the increased viral loads resulting from infection with the new variant may be associated with the observed increase in deaths tied to COVID-19. The team believes that this may result from the reduced effectiveness of standard antiviral treatments for COVID-19.
The researchers previously showed that the VOC 202012/01 variant could be transmitted faster than other variants across the globe.
However, the team could not estimate if it increases or decreases disease severity.
However, in the current study, the team found that the fatality rate among infected patients with the new variant is higher than the deaths tied to the preexisting variants.
Importantly, the study team revealed that in males between the ages of 55 and 69, the risk of death from COVID-19 increased from 0.56 percent to 0.73 percent over the 28 days following a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result.
Corresponding author Dr Nicholas P. Jewell from the Department of Medical Statistics, Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, London 12 School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK told Thailand Medical News, “Our analysis suggests that VOC 202012/01 is not only more transmissible than preexisting SARS-CoV-2 variants but may also cause more severe illness.”
The study team noted that the study findings are consistent with analyses by other groups utilizing different methods and tools to verify the heightened risk of death among community-tested persons.
As of today there are more than 106.6 million confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection worldwide. Of these, over 2.33 million have died. In the United States alone, more than 465,000 Americans have died from the COVID-19 disease.
It is expected that a third wave is likely to merge in April with a more catastrophic effect as more of these variants emerge and become more prevalent.
There is a direct need to identify or develop effective therapeutic drugs and antivirals to eradicate this virus.
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