The question is, does contracting the variant induce more severe manifestations of COVID-19 in carriers? Well according to a new study conducted by the Office for National Statistics, it isn’t a question of severity but rather the presentation.
The authors derived their research from a patient sample of 6,000 UK citizens who tested positive for the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) between November and January.
The 3,500 of these who tested positive for the UK variant more often than not expressed the four following symptoms:
- Cough (35%)
- Fatigue (32%)
- Muscle aches (25%)
- Sore throat (21.8%)
These symptoms are of course present in sufferers of prime coronavirus strains as well but to a lesser degree. Sixteen percent of those carrying the new variant cited losing their sense of taste and 15% said that they lost their sense of smell.
“The largest differences in reported symptoms between the new variant compatible positives and those not compatible with the new UK variant were found in cough, sore throat, fatigue and myalgia,” the authors wrote.
“The new UK variant of COVID-19 has genetic changes in the S-gene. This means the S-gene is no longer detected in the current test, and cases that would have previously been positive on all three genes are now positive only on the ORF1ab and the N-gene (not the S-gene).”
The new variant, labeled B.1.1.7 is on its way to becoming a globally dominant variant according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. B.1.1.7 is said to be 70% more transmissive than previously reported strains, though it’s less contagious than the recent South African variant, 501.V2.
Both mutations express genetic makeups that affect our immune system’s response to them. To be exact, B.1.1.7 evidences a total of 23 sequence changes compared to the original Wuhan strain.
“Some of these changes in different parts of the virus could affect the body’s immune response and also influence the range of symptoms associated with infection,” Lawrence Young, PhD, virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick in the U.K explained.
“Infected people appear to produce more virus and this could result in more widespread infection within the body “perhaps accounting for more coughs, muscle pain and tiredness.”
The data featured in the paper was presented in partnership with Public Health England, the University of Oxford, and the University of Manchester.