Covid-19 variant discovered in UK linked to significantly higher mortality rate in new study

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  • A new Covid-19 variant was discovered last year in Kent, UK
  • A recent study compared the death rate caused by this new variant to that of previous ones
  • Researchers found this new variant to be more deadly than the original

Variant B.1.1.7 (also known as 501Y.V1) of Covid-19, first discovered in the UK, is known to be more infectious than the original one, but a recent study shows that this is not the only reason we should be concerned about it.

The new research shows that this highly infectious variant is also 30 to 100% more deadly than previous variants. 

Establishing mortality of B.1.1.7

Researchers from the UK conducted a matched cohort study involving 54 906 matched pairs of participants who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19 disease) between 1 October 2020 and 29 January 2021. The researchers compared the death rates of those infected with B.1.1.7 to those infected with other variants of the virus.

Results of the study show that in the sample of 54 906 patients, B.1.1.7 led to 227 deaths, compared to older variants that were responsible for 141 deaths in closely matched participants. 

This information is crucial to governments around the world and helps highlight the urgency to curb the spread of the virus, as the variant has already been detected in more than 90 different countries. 

“In the community, death from Covid-19 is still a rare event, but the B.1.1.7 variant raises the risk. Coupled with its ability to spread rapidly, this makes B.1.1.7 a threat that should be taken seriously,” warned lead author of the study, Robert Challen.

The virus mutates and spreads very quickly

The findings also show that given the high rate of transmissibility of B.1.1.7, an increased number of people who were previously deemed low risk had to be hospitalised after being infected. 

Senior author of the study, Leon Danon, said: “We focused our analysis on cases that occurred between November 2020 and January 2021, when both the old variants and the new variant were present in the UK. This meant we were able to maximise the number of 'matches' and reduce the impact of other biases. Subsequent analyses have confirmed our results.

“SARS-CoV-2 appears able to mutate quickly, and there is a real concern that other variants will arise with resistance to rapidly rolled out vaccines. Monitoring for new variants as they arise, measuring their characteristics and acting appropriately needs to be a key part of the public health response in the future.”

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