London – British government scientists are increasingly discovering that the Coronavirus variant that was first discovered in Britain is linked to a higher risk of death compared to other versions of the virus, a devastating trend that highlights the grave risks and great uncertainties of this new phase of the epidemic.
Scholars He said last month That there was a “realistic possibility” that the alternative was not only more contagious, but also more deadly. They are now He says in a new document That the variable was “likely” associated with an increased risk of hospitalization and death.
The British government has not publicly announced the updated results, which are based on nearly twice as many studies as its previous assessment and include more deaths from Covid-19 cases caused by the new variant, known as B.1.1.7. He. She The document was posted on a government website on Friday.
The reasons for the high death rate are not entirely clear. Some evidence suggests that people infected with the variant may have higher viral loads, a feature that could not only make the virus more contagious, but may also undermine the effectiveness of certain treatments.
But scientists are also trying to understand how much the increased risk of death might stem from the variable’s tendency to spread very easily through places like nursing homes, where people are already exposed.
Regardless of the explanation, scientific advisers to the British government said on Saturday that the new findings revealed the risks of countries easing restrictions as the alternative entrenched.
Variable to him Spread in at least 82 countries, and he It is transferred 35 to 45 percent more easily Another variant in the United States, scientists recently estimated. US officials suggested the alternative could be The dominant source of infection is there by March.
“The overall picture is something like a 40 to 60 percent increase in hospitalization risk and death risk,” Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist and scientific advisor to the British government, said in an interview on Saturday. Referring to the severe restrictions on socialization in place across Britain, he said, “It strengthens the policy measures in place.”
Most cases of Covid-19, even those caused by the new variant, are not fatal. Government scientists were relying on studies that examined a small percentage of total deaths.
Scientists also struggled to account for the presence of underlying diseases in people with the new variant, and whether the cases arose in nursing homes.
It was largely restricted to studying people who tested positive for the virus in community testing sites, not in hospitals. An abnormality in hospital testing means that many cannot detect the variant gene which is often used as a substitute for the variant.
One of the studies That fueled the new government’s results also provided disturbing, albeit very preliminary, signs that heightened risks from the new form were particularly present among black Britons and Asians. This raised the notion that because the variant was more contagious, it might infect at-risk populations more.
In general, the assessment by governmental scientists that the variable was “likely” to be associated with a higher risk of death still only indicated 55 to 75 percent confidence in the outcome.
“I think these results may be real, although there are still many limitations and we need to understand their causes,” said Moog Civic, an infectious disease expert at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and a scientific advisor to the British government. .
She added that “there are other explanations for this increasing severity,” including that the variable may “be transmitted disproportionately in places with vulnerable people,” such as nursing homes, because it is more transmissible.
The biggest risk in the new variant remains its propensity to spread: it is thought to be 30 to 50 percent more transmissible, although some scientists put the number even higher.
Since the first sample of the variant was collected in southeast England in September, it has become the dominant source of infection in Britain. It now accounts for more than 90 percent of cases in many parts of the country.
A strict lockdown has recently reduced the number of new cases, but only after British hospitals I became overwhelmed. Loosening the shutdown can lead to a sharp increase in the conditions caused by the variant.
severely 117,000 people They have died from the Coronavirus in Britain, half of them since the end of November as the alternative spreads.
“This has been very catastrophic in terms of deaths,” said Dr. Ferguson, an epidemiologist. “This is a result of both increased transmissibility and increased mortality.”
A recent study By the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, one of those relied upon by government scientists, provided rough estimates of the effect of the variable. It examined 3,382 deaths, 1,722 of which were people infected with the variant, and estimated that the risk of death was 58% higher among cases caused by the variant.
For men ages 55 to 69, for example, this raised the overall risk of death from 0.6 percent to 0.9 percent. For women in that age group, it raised the overall risk of death from 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent.
“The calculation of when we can lift restrictions must be influenced by this,” said Simon Clark, associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, of the new report. “It provides additional evidence that this alternative is more lethal than the one we dealt with last time.”
He added that the results proved the British government’s decision to sound the alarm about the alternative in December and then published evidence last month that it was likely to be more lethal. Initially, some outside scholars rejected the warnings.
“They didn’t keep the data,” said Professor Clark. “They were very upfront about how vague things are.”