The COVID-19 variant believed to have originated in the United Kingdom is not linked to higher instances of “severe disease or death,” according to a new study published Monday.
The study, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal, looked at data from the U.K. shortly after the variant was detected in late 2020. Researchers examined nearly 500 patients at two hospitals in London and found no link between the U.K. variant — also known as B.1.1.7 —and more severe COVID-19 cases.
UK variant of COVID-19 does not cause more severe disease: The Lancet https://t.co/Rj3DQSFRB0 pic.twitter.com/BTC4Ei8EoP
— Reuters UK (@ReutersUK) April 13, 2021
“We found no evidence of a difference in our main outcome of severe disease or death by SARS-CoV-2 lineage,” the researchers concluded.
“Our data, within the context and limitations of a real-world study, provide initial reassurance that severity in hospitalized patients with B.1.1.7 is not markedly different from severity in those without,” they added.
The study also found that patients with the U.K. variant were younger and had fewer comorbidities than patients without the variant. While COVID-19 infections and deaths have typically clustered around older age groups, the findings suggested more “widespread and potential increased transmission” of the variant among people under the age of 60.
The new findings contribute to scientists’ evolving understanding of the U.K. variant during a time when COVID-19 variants continue to circulate globally. The variant was first detected in several U.S. states in late December, and has been responsible for roughly 21,000 cases in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“There’s clearly a lot of interesting stuff to look into,” said University College London bioinformatician Dan Frampton, one of the study’s lead authors, according to NBC News. “We’re in a much better position now to start studying what appear to be small results and go into more detail to flesh the picture out more.”
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who had previously warned in March that the U.K. variant would become “dominant,” announced last Wednesday that the variant was “the most common lineage” circulating in the U.S. (RELATED: A Weepy CDC Director Insists America Is Facing ‘Doom.’ Do The Facts Match The Hysteria?)
Studies in January concluded that the COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna are both effective against the U.K. variant. Roughly one-fifth of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated as the number of new reported cases are on the decline, according to The Wall Street Journal.