London study says it is more transmissible in under 20s

The new variant SARS-CoV-2 (English variant) is rapidly growing, is more transmissible than other variants, and affects a greater share of people under 20. And this could have happened because the peak of the new variant (New variant of concern, the British call it) coincided with the open schools. A study byImperial College London. The researchers found that the new variant has a transmission advantage of 0.4 to 0.7 in reproduction numbers over the previously observed strain. The results are provided in a report written by a collaborative team from Imperial College London, the University of Edinburgh, Public Health England (PHE), the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Birmingham and COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium +.

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It is a report that suggests a lot of caution on the reopening of schools in January: scientists clearly raise doubts about the advisability of this choice by putting together a series of data, first of which the diffusion of this variant above all among children under 20. The study compared samples of the mutated virus taken from nearly 2,000 people in the UK with another 84,000 taken from people with other variants. And he found that the English variant (B117, the British health system named it VOC, New Variant of Concern, literally: New variant of concern, to be noted, ed) has greater contagiousness despite the November lockdown which worked to lower the rates of the original coronavirus strain, but did little to suppress the spread of the mutated strain in England.

There are already those who are problematizing the situation in the United States: if the new variant of the virus in fact became dominant in the United States (for now it has been isolated in Colorado, California and Florida) it could increase transmissions and cases by about 48%.

What the British researchers found

The team evaluated the relationship between transmission and frequency of the new variant across UK regions over time. By analyzing the whole genome prevalence of different genetic variants over time and the dynamics of epidemiological processes, the researchers demonstrated that this variant is growing rapidly. There is a consensus among all the analyzes, we read on the Imperial college website, that the new variant has a substantial transmission advantage (higher transmission than non-VOC variants). These higher levels of infection have occurred, the report points out, despite the high levels of social distance in England.

The most affected are under 20 years old

The study finds that individuals under the age of 20 make up a higher percentage of new variant cases than other variants. However, according to the researchers, it is too early to determine the mechanism behind this change. They explain that it may have been partly influenced by the diffuse variants to coincide with a time when isolation was in effect but schools were open. More research is underway into the specific nature of any changes in how the virus affects this age group.

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What the researchers say

Doctor Erik Volz of Imperial College London said: «All viruses evolve, and very rarely does a virus change in a way that requires a reassessment of public health policy. We find overwhelming evidence of a change in the transmissibility of variant B.1.1.7 that should be considered in planning our COVID-19 response in the new year».

He Prof. Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London said: «These analyzes, which have informed UK government planning in recent weeks, show that the new variant (VOC), B.1.1.7, has substantially higher transmissibility than previous SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating in the UK. This will make monitoring more difficult and accentuate the urgency to vaccinate as quickly as possible».

He Prof. Axel Gandy of Imperial College London said: «Until a very high percentage of the population has been vaccinated, strong social distancing measures are needed to control this more transmissible variant of COVID-19. Anyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated».

Last updated: 01:02


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