More than a year into the pandemic COVID-19 has infected more than 106 million confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection worldwide. Of these, over 2.32 million have died, while 59.36 million people have recovered. In the United Kingdom, a new SARS-CoV-2 variant, called the variant of concern VOC 202012/01 or B.1.1.7 emerged, and has gained a foothold across the globe.
Many countries are reporting a sudden surge of cases tied to this new variant. Researchers have conducted a study that shows the new variant is not only easily transmissible but also increases the risk of severe disease. The researchers analyzed a large database of SARS-CoV-2 community test results and COVID-19 deaths for England to arrive at the study findings. This dataset represented about 47 percent of all SARS-CoV-2 tests, and 7 percent of COVID-19 deaths between September 1, 2020, and January 22, 2021.
The tests used in the study can detect mutations like the VOC 202012/01 because mutations in this lineage avert polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of the spike gene target. Evidence shows that infection with the new variant may be tied to higher viral loads, as measured by Ct values detected during a PCR test. The research revealed that the fatality rate among infected patients with the new variant is higher than the deaths tied to the preexisting variants. Specifically, the team revealed that in males between the ages of 55 and 69, the risk of death from COVID-19 increased from 0.56 percent to 0.73 percent over the 28 days following a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result.
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