UK variant more contagious but not more deadly – Lancet study

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Studies published in the renowned peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet have found no evidence that the so-called UK strain of Covid-19 is more deadly. However, they do confirm that it is more contagious. The B117 variant, to give it its official name, has now been detected in Thailand, originally found in a cluster of infections from Bangkok nightlife venues. It has been surging across Europe for some time already, having originally been identified in England last year.

Earlier studies had indicated that the B117 variant was linked to more serious illness and thought to be more deadly than other variants of Covid-19. However, according to the Bangkok Post, 2 new studies in The Lancet Infectious Diseases and The Lancet Public Health journals say the data does not support this. While the studies confirm that the B117 variant is more contagious, they found no evidence that infected patients experience worse symptoms or are at greater risk of developing long Covid – the term used to describe the often debilitating effects that can linger after the initial illness has passed.

In the first study, researchers examined data from 341 patients who tested positive for the virus late last year, when the B117 variant was highly prevalent in southeast England. 58% were found to be infected with the B117 variant, while 42% had a non-B117 variant. Of those infected with B117, 36% became seriously ill or died. Of those not infected with the variant, 38% became seriously ill or died. The study also found that those infected with the B117 variant tended to be younger and/or from ethnic minority groups.

Researchers also examined data from PCR testing to assess the variant’s transmissibility and found that B117 samples contained larger quantities of the virus than the original strain of Covid-19.

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Experts from Singapore’s National Centre for Infectious Diseases say the latest findings contradict 3 earlier studies that suggested the B117 variant was more deadly. However, they point out that the Lancet study had the advantage of using whole-genome sequencing, a process of determining the entire DNA sequence of an organism’s genetic material. They add that while the studies looked at a variety of patient and disease outcomes, larger studies are needed in order to confirm the findings.

“The finding that lineage B117 infection did not confer increased risk of severe disease and mortality in this high-risk cohort is reassuring but requires further confirmation in larger studies.”

In a second study, researchers looked at data provided by 36,920 users of a Covid-19 symptom app, who were confirmed as infected between September 28 and December 27 last year. That study showed that the B117 variant reproduces 1.35 times faster than the original strain, but there was no indication it led to more severe illness or death.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Maya Taylor

A seasoned writer, with a degree in Creative Writing. Over ten years' experience in producing blog and magazine articles, news reports and website content.

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