Colored scanning electron microscope image of a cell (blue) that is heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (red) and that was isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Image Credit: NIAID
A team of researchers led by a group at the Center for Mathematical Modeling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has found evidence that the UK variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus may be 43 to 90% more transmissible than the original virus . In their study, published in the journal Science, the group used models to examine the transferability of different variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
As early as November last year, medical researchers discovered a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which later became known as the VOC 202012/01 (UK) variant. The following month, researchers reported that the British variant was potentially more transmissible than the original virus. Those fears seemed justified when subsequent studies showed that in early February 95% of new infections in England were due to the British variant. The variant has so far also been found in 82 other countries.
To learn more about the variant, the researchers examined 150,000 virus sequences from across the UK. They found evidence that the UK variant had a higher growth rate than any of the 307 other variants they found. They next entered data related to the virus into a mathematical model that was modified to show the transmission rates of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants. The team then used the model to test certain assumptions that were made about the variant, such as: B. the ability to cause a higher viral load and how long it persists in infected individuals. The model showed that the reproduction number for the variant was 43 to 90% higher than for the original virus or other variants.
The researchers also used models to show how effective interventions could be in controlling the variant. They noted that the UK needs to step up vaccination efforts to prevent a sharp surge in infections. Without them, they expect the UK to have more hospitalizations and deaths in 2021 than in 2020.
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Nicholas G. Davies et al. Estimated transferability and impact of the SARS-CoV-2 line B.1.1.7 in England, Science (2021). DOI: 10.1126 / science.abg3055
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The mathematical model of the SARS-CoV-2 UK variant suggests that it could be 43-90% more transferable (2021, March 5th).
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