SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7, a variant first detected in the UK in September 2020, has spread to multiple countries worldwide. Several studies have established that B.1.1.7 is more transmissible than preexisting variants, but have not identified whether it leads to any change in disease severity. In this article the authors analyse a dataset linking 2,245,263 positive SARS-CoV-2 community tests and 17,452 COVID-19 deaths in England from 1 September 2020 to 14 February 2021. For 1,146,534 (51%) of these tests, the presence or absence of B.1.1.7 can be identified because of mutations in this lineage preventing PCR amplification of the spike gene target (S gene target failure, SGTF1). Based on 4,945 deaths with known SGTF status, they estimate that the hazard of death associated with SGTF is 55% (95% CI 39–72%) higher after adjustment for age, sex, ethnicity, deprivation, care home residence, local authority of residence and test date. This corresponds to the absolute risk of death for a 55–69-year-old male increasing from 0.6% to 0.9% (95% CI 0.8–1.0%) within 28 days after a positive test in the community. Correcting for misclassification of SGTF and missingness in SGTF status, a 61% (42–82%) higher hazard of death associated with B.1.1.7 was estimated. The authors concluded that their analysis suggests that B.1.1.7 is not only more transmissible than preexisting SARS-CoV-2 variants, but may also cause more severe illness.
Davies NG, et al. Increased mortality in community-tested cases of SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7. Nature. 2021 Mar 15. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03426-1