UK COVID-19 Variant Not Linked to Severe Disease or Reinfection – New Lancet Study 
The variant of SARS-CoV-2 2, B.1.1.7 is now the most common COVID-19 strain in the United States and has been reported in 125 countries, according to the WHO Weekly Epidemiological Update. 

Two studies published by The Lancet Infectious Disease and The Lancet Public Health report that the United Kingdom’s dominant strain of the virus is not linked to more severe disease or death, and that there was no apparent increase in reinfection rate from the variant. 

The variant of SARS-CoV-2 2, B.1.1.7, emerged as the dominant cause of COVID-19 infection in the UK in November 2020, with its high transmissibility when compared to other strains. 

B.1.1.7 has since been reported in 125 countries, according to the WHO Weekly Epidemiological Update.  The variant is now the most common COVID-19 strain in the United States. 

In the study published in The Lancet Public Health, researchers used data collected from 36,000 participants of the COVID Symptom Study App, and investigated whether the appearance of the B.1.1.7 variant was connected with differences in symptoms, duration of disease, hospital admission, asymptomatic infection, risk of reinfection, and transmissibility for users reporting a positive test result from 28 September and 27 December 2020.

The data was used in combination with surveillance data from the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium, which randly sequences viruses from positive test samples in the UK, to determine what proportion of positive tests included the B.1.1.7 variant. 

Overall, researchers found no association between the B.1.1.7 variant and type of symptoms, disease duration, asymptomatic infection, and hospital admission, and a low prevalence of possible reinfection.

This data suggests that vaccines developed against previous variants will be effective against B.1.1.7, said Mark Graham, research associate at King’s College London and lead author of the study. 

Graham also adds that the data “suggests that B.1.1.7 doesn’t really have a substantial effect on reinfection, and immunity developed from previous infections with COVID should sufficiently protect against B.1.1.7. “

Researchers from the study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases further investigated reports of increased transmissibility by sequencing the virus obtained from samples in 341 patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 in two London, UK hospitals between November and December 2020. 

58% of the 341 patients had the B.1.1.7 infection and 42% had non-B.1.1.7 infection. Researchers found no association between the variant and disease severity. Those infected with B.1.1.7 were also no more likely to die compared to those infected with another SARS-CoV-2 strain.  

“We didn’t find an association between severity of disease with the variant after adjusting for other factors [like age, ethnicity and other health conditions],” said Dr Eleni Nastouli, associate professor of infection, immunity, and inflammation at the University College of London and study lead.

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