UK Variant Does Not Worsen Symptoms or Increase Risk of Long COVID

A study published in The Lancet concludes that there is no evidence of a link between severe illness and death and lineage when comparing the B.1.1.7 lineage and other variants. To better understand how the B.1.1.7 variant spreads and its effects on the human population, the researchers investigated the genomic characteristics and clinical outcomes tied to the B.1.1.7 infection in patients admitted to the hospital. They also assessed whether there was a difference in viral load, by proxy of PCR cycle threshold (Ct) values and whole-genome sequencing read depths, between patients with the B.1.1.7 infection and those infected with previous circulating lineages.

To arrive at the study findings, the researchers collected samples positive for SARS-CoV-2 on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) from November 9, 2020, from patients who were admitted to one of two hospitals on or before December 20, 2020, in London, the U.K. These samples were sequenced for the presence of the mutations. The team investigated the link between the B.1.1.7 lineage and severe illness or death within 28 days of a positive test. Further genomic analyses were performed in a group of chronically shedding patients and a group of remdesivir-treated patients. The team then compared viral load by proxy, using PCR cycle threshold values, and by using sequencing read depths. The study findings revealed that of the 341 patients with positive samples for SARS-CoV-2. Of these, 58 percent had a B.1.1.7 infection while 42 percent had a non-B.1.1.7 infection. The team found no link between severe illness and death and the lineages when comparing the B.1.1.7 lineage and other circulating lineages. Further, they detected no B.1.1.7 VOC-defining mutations in 123 chronically shedding immunocompromised patients or 32 remdesivir-treated patients. Meanwhile, they found higher viral load by proxy in B.1.1.7 samples than in non-B.1.1.7 samples. In terms of age, B.1.1.7 infection is more common in younger people, which gives a hint of more severe disease in patients with the variant are admitted to the hospital more often, compared with patients with other lineages.

The study investigators urged the rapid collection of food quality clinical data, alongside whole-genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2. These are imperative in deciding whether variants are associated with altered clinical outcomes. The data and the investigation of neutralization capacity of sera from people who had COVID-19 or those who received a vaccine are essential in the public health response and management of COVID-19.

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