The new so-called British variant of the coronavirus is more contagious but is not more deadly than the strain which emerged from China’s Wuhan, according to two new studies.
Previous studies, including one from the UK government, had found that the B.1.1.7 mutation led to a higher mortality rate, but two studies published on Monday have contradicted this.
In one study, published in The Lancet Public Health journal, researchers from University College London found that those infected with the British variant had a higher virus load, meaning it is more infectious, but compared with patients who did not have this variant, there were no more deaths.
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To assess whether the symptoms of infections with the British variant differed from those of previous variants, the research investigated symptoms from cases reported between 28 September and 27 December 2020, when the proportion of cases with this variant grew most in Southern England.
“After examining the effect of the proportion of infections with the B.1.1.7 variant on Covid-19 symptoms, disease course, rates of reinfection, and transmissibility in the UK, we found no change in symptoms or their duration,” the report stated.
The second study looked at the symptoms of Covid-19 patients who became infected during the same period at the end of last year and saw no significant difference in the severity of the disease and the demonstrable long-term effects of infection with the British mutation.
The research evaluated the symptoms of patients and allowed them to report these via an app of the British NHS health service.
Both studies concluded that additional research is needed to confirm the results, and one study emphasised the importance of understanding how these mutations could affect the presentation and spread of the virus so that effective public health responses can be formulated.
The Brussels Times