The UK Variant maybe 40% more Transmissible

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the rapid spread and evolution of the causative agent SARS-CoV-2 have led to the emergence of new variants that have a transmission advantage over the original strain. In December 2020, Public Health England identified a new cluster of viruses belonging to the lineage B.1.1.7. Researchers in Japan have estimated that the B.1.1.7 variant strain of SARS-CoV-2 is 40% more transmissible than strains previously circulating in the country. The study is published on a pre-print server.

The researchers say the estimated 40% greater transmissibility of B.1.1.7 suggests that the measures implemented to control this strain need to be strengthened by 40%, compared with those used to control previously circulating strains. For the equivalent control effects to be reached, contact rates between individuals would need to be less than 0.71 of the rates achieved using the previous measures. Several previous studies have compared the reproduction number (R; the number of secondary infections resulting from one single infection) of the B.1.1.7 lineage to that of strains previously circulating in England. The methods used in these studies estimated the increase in transmissibility under the assumption that R is constant overtime during the target period of analysis.

The team estimated the selective advantage of the B.1.1.7 lineage over previous strains using the time course of the fraction of B.1.1.7 viruses identified in England. Based on Wallinga-Teunis’s method for estimating instantaneous reproduction numbers, the approach allowed the reproduction number to change during the target period of analysis. The researchers estimated that the selective advantage of the B.1.1.7 strains over non-B.1.1.7 strains were 0.40, indicating that the instantaneous reproduction number of the B.1.1.7 lineage is 40% higher than that of previous strains. The researchers have also pointed out that there is an urgent need to estimate the selective advantage of Brazil and South African strains.

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