British variant of Covid-19 has significantly higher death rate, study finds

Infection with the new variant led to 227 deaths in a sample of 54,906 Covid-19 patients.
Infection with the new variant led to 227 deaths in a sample of 54,906 Covid-19 patients.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - A highly infectious variant of Covid-19 that has spread around the world since it was first discovered in Britain late last year is between 30 per cent and 100 per cent more deadly than previous strains, researchers said on Wednesday (March 10).

In a study that compared death rates among people in Britain infected with the new Sars-CoV-2 variant, known as B117, against those infected with other strains, scientists said the new variant had "significantly higher" mortality.

The B117 variant was first detected in Britain in September 2020, and has since been found in more than 100 countries. It has 23 mutations in its genetic code - a relatively high number of changes - and some of these have made it far more able to spread.

British scientists say it is about 40 per cent to 70 per cent more transmissible than previously dominant circulating coronavirus variants.

In the British study, published in the British Medical Journal on Wednesday, infection with the new variant led to 227 deaths in a sample of 54,906 Covid-19 patients, compared with 141 among the same number of patients infected with other variants.

"Coupled with its ability to spread rapidly, this makes B117 a threat that should be taken seriously," said Dr Robert Challen, a researcher at Exeter University who co-led the research.