UK Covid Variant Studies Show Higher Transmissibility but Similar Fatality, find Lancet studies.
As per studies published in The Lancet, it has been discovered that individuals infected with the first UK-emergent strain of coronavirus (B.1.1.7. Covid-19 variant) do not encounter long-infection risk or symptoms any higher than those conferred by the other strains. However, it was observed that the viral load and transmission rates of the B.1.1.7. Covid-19 variant was certainly higher.
The studies were conducted from September to December of 2020 when the strain emerged and spread across the country. These were published in scientific journals like The Lancet Public Health and The Lancet. The growing proofs of higher transmission rates than the 2019 Wuhan strain were further supported by Randeep Guleria, AIIMS Director, who said that the virus had the capacity to spread faster in India owing to its mutation.
The First of the UK Covid Variant Studies
The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal reported the first study of whole-genome sequencing studies was done on UK’s coronavirus patients from the 9th of November to the 20th of December last year. This period of time was when both the Wuhan strain and the UK variant circulated London with vaccination programs commencing.
The illness severity and viral load were studied in both patients infected with and without the UK variant. 58% of the 341 patients tested were infected with the B.1.1.7. Variant while the rest (42%) had non-B.1.1.7. Infection.
While disease severity and death in UK Covid Variant Studies were observed in 36% of the B.1.1.7,- infected patients, 38% of the non-B.1.1.7.-infected patients. Therefore, there was not much correlation between the variant infecting the patient and the severity of the disease.
Strain transmissibility was determined by subjecting swabs from patients’ noses and throat to PCR tests and studying the data generated. The viral load was greater in swabs from B.1.1.7.-infected patients.
University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s Dr. Eleni Nastouli emphasized the study’s strength in being conducted at the same time as the strain’s emergence and spread. This gave them a clear insight into the differences between the first wave and the B.1.1.7. Strain infections as studied in hospitalized patients at the peak time of hospital admissions and increase in healthcare.
The Second of the UK Covid Variant Studies
The 2nd study was published in the journal The Lancet Public Health analyzed data from the Covid app. This data was self-reported by 36,920 users in the UK between September 28th to December 27th of 2020. Added to this was the surveillance data that studied the strain’s transmissibility, reinfection rates, disease duration, symptoms, actual infections, and their regional proportion. This was acquired from the COVID-19 UK Genetics Consortium and Public Health England.
The study was conducted mainly in the East and southeast regions of England and London for over 13 weeks. King’s College London, UK’s Honorary Consultant Physician Dr. Claire Steves, spoke about the increased transmissibility along with the B.1.1.7. Strain’s response to measures like lockdown imposition. In the UK Covid Variant Studies, the strain wasn’t exactly found to be capable of evading immunity gained from the first coronavirus strain’s infection.
Steves assured that reinfection rates and symptoms reporting would be promptly done for any new strains or variants that emerge. However, the second study didn’t find any evidence of reinfection rate alteration as a confirmation of the fast spread of the B.1.1.7. Strain, the R (overall reproduction number) was found to be 1,35 times higher than that of the first strain. But it is also notable from the UK Covid Variant Studies that lockdown measures (both local and national) have resulted in falling transmissibility, with the R-value falling below 1 during those occasions.