The more contagious coronavirus variant first discovered in Britain does not cause more severe illness in hospitalized patients, according to a new study published by the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.
The study, which was carried out by the University College London and posted late Monday, appears to contradict earlier findings that had linked the variant with higher rates of disease and even death.
According to the Lancet and other research, the variant is more contagious than the original coronavirus strain. It produces higher viral loads in infected individuals — but does not necessarily result in more lethal illness, the study’s authors said.
“Emerging evidence exists of increased transmissibility of B.1.1.7, and we found increased virus load … in our data,” they wrote.
The study tracked patients admitted to two London hospitals in November and December as infectious surged. Researchers sequenced and analyzed test samples for the B.1.1.7 variant but as infected patients’ disease progressed, they found no “association of the variant with severe disease.”
A March study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that the variant was linked to 55 percent higher mortality compared with other strains, saying that it threatened to undermine improvements in covid-19 treatment. The study’s researchers analyzed the results of more than 2 million coronavirus tests in England between November and February.
In January, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said that there was evidence that the variant might be associated with a higher degree of mortality. A similar study published last month by the British Medical Journal found that the risk of death for B.1.1.7 was 64 percent higher than previous strains in people aged 30 and over.