UK COVID-19 variant associated with increased risk of death

A new paper co-written by Berkeley Public Health Professor Nicholas Jewell and published today in the journal Nature, suggests that the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may be associated with an increased risk of death.

The UK variant, called B.1.1.7,  was first detected in the UK in September 2020, according to the CDC. It has since spread to other countries across the globe, including the United States.

The UK variant has been found to be very efficient, leading to a rapid rate of transmission. In January 2021, scientists from the UK reported initial evidence suggesting that there was an increased risk of death for those who were infected with B.1.1.7.

The new analysis, led by Dr. Nicholas Davies of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,  is based on a review of more than 2 million community test results and over 17,000 COVID-19 deaths in England from September 2020 to February 2021.

Dr. Davies and colleagues, including Dr. Jewell, who also is associated with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, analysed a database of 2,245,263 positive COVID-19 test results and 17,452 COVID-19 deaths in England from September 1, 2020, to February 14, 2021. Using a modelling approach, the researchers estimated that there was a 61% higher risk of death associated with the B.1.1.7 variant.

“This work of Davies and my colleagues at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine provides an example of intense data science and statistics—the results are very important, if sobering,” said Jewell. “Perhaps the most important takeaway is that the increased virulence of B.1.1.7 stresses the need to reduce transmission as much, and as quickly, as we can in order to allow vaccinations a chance to protect our populations.”

The CDC reports that there is no evidence to suggest that the UK variant has any impact on vaccine efficacy.

Read the full paper in Nature


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