April 19, 2021

Lonnie Listonsmith

Experienced Health Expert

variant

1 min read

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The SARS-CoV-2 variant first detected in the United Kingdom is rapidly becoming the dominant strain in several countries and is doubling every 10 days in the United States, according to new data.

The findings by Nicole L. Washington, PhD, associate director of research at the genomics company Helix, and colleagues were posted Sunday on the preprint server medRxiv. The paper has not been peer-reviewed in a scientific journal.

The researchers also found that the transmission rate in the United States of the variant, labeled B.1.1.7,

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South Africa suspended the start of its AstraZeneca inoculation program over concerns the shot doesn’t work nearly as well against the new variant of the coronavirus first discovered in the country. World Health Organization experts were due to meet Monday to discuss the vaccine.

A trial showed the vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, provides only “minimal” protection against mild to moderate COVID-19 infection caused specifically by the variant that has swept through South Africa. The strain, believed to be more easily transmitted but not to cause significantly more serious illness, has also been detected in the U.S.,

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The more transmissible COVID-19 variant that originated in the U.K. is doubling in the U.S. every 10 days, according to a new study.

The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, also found the variant to be 35-45 percent more transmissible than the COVID-19 strain first circulating in the U.S. 

“Unless decisive and immediate public health action is taken, the increased transmission rate of these lineages and resultant higher effective reproduction number of SARSCoV-2 will likely have devastating consequences to COVID-19 mortality and morbidity in the U.S. in a few months, if decisive action is not immediately taken,”

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British hospitals have been inundated with COVID-19 patients.Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AFP via Getty

The news is sobering, but complicated. Scientists have released the data behind a British government warning last week that the fast-spreading SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 increases the risk of dying from COVID-19 compared with previous variants. But some scientists caution that the latest study — like the government warning — is preliminary and still does not indicate whether the variant is more deadly or is just spreading faster and so reaching greater numbers of vulnerable people.

The latest findings are concerning, but to draw conclusions, “more work needs

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