B.1.1.7 Variant SARS-CoV-2 significantly more dangerous

As coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreads worldwide, emerging new variants of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pose a threat to ongoing vaccination efforts. One of these new variants, the United Kingdom variant or the B.1.1.7 variant, has now reached many countries and contributed to the exploding number of cases.

Now researchers from the University of Exeter, NHS Foundation Trust are reporting a significant increase in the risk of death from variant B.1.1.7 of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

The B.1.1.7 variant, also known as the UK variant, first appeared in September 2020. From there it has spread to many countries, including the United States.

In the study published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ), The team examined epidemiological signatures associated with the B.1.1.7 variant, including their reproductive number, presentation and outcome by S gene status.

The team aimed to detect any change in mortality from infection with the B.1.1.7 variant compared to other circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Increased mortality

To arrive at the study results, the team estimated the SARS-CoV-2 reproduction number in the UK using data from Public Health England in March 2020 and contributed to the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modeling Subgroup (SPI-M) weekly consensus estimates .

When the new variant was reported in December 2020, SPI-M research groups shared data that enabled them to identify the infections. From there, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) used the data to develop estimates of the variant’s increased transmissibility.

In January 2021, the team presented an analysis showing a worrying increase in deaths linked to variant B.1.1.7.

In the current study, the researchers wanted to see whether an increased risk of mortality is actually associated with the new variant. They used a matched cohort study method, a vaccine efficacy estimation method used for the meningitis B vaccine.

In this method, participants are paired with equivalents depending on various characteristics.

To arrive at the study results, the team obtained data from 54,906 matched pairs of participants who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 between October 1, 2020 and January 29, 2021 and were followed up to February 12, 2021.

After the researchers settled on a study design within hours, preliminary estimates showed a significant increase in mortality risk due to the B.1.1.7 variant. They found that the mortality risk rate associated with infection with the B.1.1.7 variant was 1.64 compared with infection with previously circulating variants in people with community COVID-19.

There is an increase in deaths from 2.5 to 4.1 per 1,000 detected cases in the same group.

The researchers’ estimates were even higher than the LSHTM estimates. The two results were combined with Imperial College researchers’ forecast and analysis, which included admissions data from Scotland.

In addition, the team found that the risk of death from infection with the new variant is increased. They added that the new variant could cause additional mortality compared to previously circulating variants.

“Healthcare capacity planning and national and international control policies are all impacted by this finding, with the increased mortality adding weight to the argument that further coordinated and stringent action to reduce deaths from SARS-CoV-2 is warranted,” they said Researchers in the study notes .

The team urged that future work exploring factors such as geographic location, time, age, gender, ethnicity and disadvantage is essential to pave the way for more targeted resource allocation, easing of restrictions and vaccine distribution strategies.

They also plan to quickly share their findings with healthcare decision-makers. The study results can help health professionals decide on appropriate mitigation measures to prevent the further spread of the virus.

To date, more than 123.5 million SARS-CoV-2 infections have been registered worldwide. Of these, 2.72 million people have died and over 70 million have recovered.

The United States reports the highest number of cases at 29.85 million, followed by Brazil at 11.99 million, India at 11.64 million, Russia at 4.41 million, France at 4.35 million and the United Kingdom at 4.31 million cases.

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Magazine reference:

  • Challen R, Brooks-Pollock E, Read J, Dyson L and Tsaneva-Atanasova K (2021). Mortality risk in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, worrying variant 202012/1: coordinated cohort study. The British Medical Journal (BMJ). https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n579

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