New Kent strain of 'super-COVID' is nearly 50 percent more contagious than other varieties, Imperial study confirms

 The new mutant variant of 'super' coronavirus is indeed more infectious than previous variants, just as scientists feared, a new study has found. 

Imperial College London researchers found that the new variant that's been wreaking havoc in the UK may be nearly 50 percent more transmissible, based on samples taken from nearly 86,000 Britons. 

In the study posted online yesterday, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, Imperial College researchers determined that the 'R' number for the new B117 variant is between 0.4 and 0.7 points higher than other variants. 

The 'R' number of a virus describes the average number of additional cases that each infection leads to. 

In the UK, the latest R number stands between 1.1 and 1.3, government figures show. This means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 11 and 13 other people. 

Graphs from the new study show how, over  eight weeks, the new variant became increasingly common (dots higher on each chart) in the UK and became more transmissible (dots further the right on each chart show rising  R numbers, or transmission rates

Graphs from the new study show how, over  eight weeks, the new variant became increasingly common (dots higher on each chart) in the UK and became more transmissible (dots further the right on each chart show rising  R numbers, or transmission rates

Pictured: A screen-grab from the Imperial College report showing case trends involving the new strain of coronavirus, where the % S- rate indicates carriage of the new variant

Pictured: A screen-grab from the Imperial College report showing case trends involving the new strain of coronavirus, where the % S- rate indicates carriage of the new variant

Pictured: Graphs from the Imperial College report showing the age distribution of people found to be carrying the new variant of Covid-19

Pictured: Graphs from the Imperial College report showing the age distribution of people found to be carrying the new variant of Covid-19

Meanwhile, on average in the US, each infected person currently leads to 1.15 more infections, according to daily calculations from RT.live.  

By this measure of transmissibility the R number in the US ranges from about 0.86 in Alaska to 1.23 in Maine, which has emerged as a hotspot this week. 

The new variant was first detected in the UK in September, the study states, but at the beginning of December, it exploded and has driven a surge in infections among Britons. 


The spread of the new novel SARS-CoV-2 variant, or Variant of Concern 202012/01 (VOC), in England comes despite a tiered system being in place as part of efforts to bring the spread of the virus under control.

The majority of England is under 'Tier 4', the strictest tier, yet is still seeing record numbers of daily Covid-19 infections despite the measures. 

Imperial College London researchers sequenced the genomes of 1,904 people infected with the new variant and compared how quickly the virus spread to a broader sample of other specimens taken from more than 48,000 people in England. 


As they expected, they found that the new virus did indeed have a 'selective advantage over circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants in England,' they wrote in the print posted online on Thursday. 

The variant was also disproportionately common among people in their 20s, and those living in South East and East England and London. 

The findings of the new study mean each person who catches this mutated virus will pass it on to up to 0.7 more people on average. 

So far, there isn't evidence to suggest the new variant causes any more serious illness or is more fatal.  

Encouragingly, virologists and public health experts believe that vaccines made by companies like AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna will still be effective against the new variant of coronavirus. 

But the new variant heats up the race between the spread of the virus and vaccination campaigns in the UK, the US - where the new variant has now been found in Colorado, California and Florida - and at least 31 other countries where the more infectious form of coronavirus has been detected.

With more than 186,000 people newly infected in a single day on average in the US, the 48 percent higher transmissibility rate of 1.85 could drive new infections per day  beyond 275,000.  

It could spell disaster for hospitals in hotspots like California where some health care systems and regions are already out of ICU beds, in states of 'internal disaster' and rationing care.  

There are similar fears in the UK over the National Health Service (NHS) and its capacity to cope with the number of coronavirus patients that are expected as the new variant of the disease continues to spread.

Sharing data from a separate study done by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Deepti Gurdasani - a senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London in Epidemiology and statistical genetics -  warned that 'B117 is either dominant, or very close to dominant in most regions' in England.

Over the  course of  six weeks, the  researchers saw how the new coronavirus variant's transmission rate (R) became higher (orange) than those of other variants, especially in South East England, East England and London

Over the  course of  six weeks, the  researchers saw how the new coronavirus variant's transmission rate (R) became higher (orange) than those of other variants, especially in South East England, East England and London 

Meanwhile, only 3.17 million Americans had been vaccinated as of Friday, according to a Bloomberg News tally. 

The CDC's tally puts the number even lower. The agency's site says its vaccination tracker will be updated every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but at the time of publication, the tool showed Wednesday's numbers, with 2.79 million people  vaccinated. 

Bloomberg's higher estimate means Operation Warp Speed has vaccinated just 16 percent of the 20 million Americans it promised to inoculate by the end of the year. 

At this pace, it would take nearly a decade to vaccinate all adult members of America's population of 331 million people. 

And  many Americans remain on the fence about getting a vaccine even when one  is available. Some 60 percent of  nursing home workers in Ohio said they would refuse a shot. 

Sluggish, dysfunctional vaccine distribution and Americans' distrust of of the shots could jointly offer the B117 variant just the opening it needs to spread like wildfire through the country infecting millions beyond the 20 million people who have  already had the infection in the US, and killing thousands. 

New Kent strain of 'super-COVID' is nearly 50 percent more contagious than other varieties, Imperial study confirms New Kent strain of 'super-COVID' is nearly 50 percent more contagious than other varieties, Imperial study confirms Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 06:22 Rating: 5

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