A UK study has shown that the 28-day risk of death linked to the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID19 has been 64 percent greater as compared to other circulating strains in the past among people who are older than 30 years of age. The study has been led by experts from the University of Exeter. Experts have looked at the death and community-based testing data of 54906 matched pairs of volunteers who have been diagnosed with COVID19 from Oct 2020 to January 29, 2021. Experts have found that out of a total of 109812 participants, around 367 people have lost their lives due to the disease. Around 227 out of 54906 participants who have been infected with the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID19 have died as compared to 141 people who have died and have been infected with other strains. Experts have said that the hazard ratio (HR) for death by 28 days after the diagnosis has been 1.64 in patients who have been diagnosed with the B.1.1.7 strain as compared to other strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that have been circulating in the past. The study has found that HR for death has not been majorly high up to 14 days after the diagnosis in people who have been infected with the B.1.1.7 strain. However, it has shot up to 2.40 towards 15 and 28 days after the diagnosis. The study has noted that people who lost their lives due to the B.1.1.7 strain have been older than their peers and most of them have been men.
The authors of the study have said that the findings of the report show that there has been an increase in deaths from 2.5 to 4.1 per 1000 cases in the moderately low-risk group. The increased HR from 1.32 to 2.04, which is greater than for other strains leads to a 32 percent to 104 percent higher risk of death with the most possible HR estimate of 64 percent higher risk of death. The B.1.1.7 variant of COVID19 has been identified in the UK for the first time. It has become quite prevalent across the country quickly. The variant has raised concerns about the higher spread of the virus and the severity of the disease. There has been a national lockdown in the country after this strain has become highly active in the region. Experts have said that people who have been diagnosed with the B.1.1.7 variant, has been found to have a higher viral load as compared to those who have been diagnosed with other strains. It might be due to the trait of the strain or the tendency of patients to seek care at the time when they have been most contagious, said the experts. Experts have warned that their findings might not apply to other age groups. They have included only 8 percent of deaths, which have taken place in England during the period of the study. As per the data, only 26 percent of deaths due to COVID19 have taken place in the community at that time. The data on the B.1.1.7 status has been available only for 30 percent of those deaths.
The authors of the study have said that in the future, they will track whether the increase in the rate of mortality from the community-based testing has been seen in older patients or in patients who have been admitted to the hospital. The senior author of the study, Dr. Leon Danon has said that the team has analyzed the cases from Oct 2020 to January 2021, when both old and new strains of the virus have been prevalent in the UK. He has said that experts have been able to increase the number of matches and reduce the effect of biases. The author has said that subsequent studies as well have supported the findings of their study. Health experts have said that the B.1.1.7 variant is highly infectious due to certain mutations in parts of the virus genome. However, the effects of these mutations on the severity of the disease, death rate, and other outcomes have been uncertain. Experts have said that the findings of the study will affect health care capacity planning and national and international control policies. They have said that the increased rate of mortality has raised concerns over the argument that coordinated and strict measures are sufficient to reduce the number of deaths due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The senior author of the study has expressed his fear saying that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has the ability to mutate rapidly; it might lead to many other variants arising with solid resistance to currently available vaccines.