COVID: The British variant is 45% more contagious than the original virus – study

The British variant is about 45% more contagious than the original strain of coronavirus, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Tel Aviv. The study was conducted using the results of some 300,000 PCR tests collected from December 6 to February 10 from a laboratory established by TAU in collaboration with Electra in March 2020. The findings were published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine on Sunday. Although most mutations of a virus are irrelevant, a variant is generated when several mutations accumulate and the virus as a result can create a different protein. In the case of coronavirus, the key protein to consider is the spike protein, which is located on the surface of the virus and allows it to penetrate host cells and cause infections. “We are using a kit that tests three different viral genes,” In the British variant, also known as B.1.1.7, one of these genes, the S gene, was deleted by mutation. Accordingly, we were able to track the spread of the variant even without genetic sequencing. “The British variant spread rapidly in Israel as the country launched a vaccination campaign in late December. According to many experts, significant progress that everyone expected to see as an effect of the vaccine was delayed due to the variant. PCR results showed that although the variant was only 5 % of cases of coronavirus identified in the laboratory on December 24, some six weeks later exceeded 90% of cases in Israel. “To explain this dramatic increase, we compared the R number of SARS-CoV-2 virus with the R variant,” he explained. Munitz, lead author of the study together with TAU prof. Moti Gerlitz. “In other words, we asked the question: How many people on average get sick from each person who has any variant? We found that the British variant is 45% more contagious – almost 1.5 times.”

The article also offered additional evidence on the effectiveness of the vaccine. The researchers looked at the trend of positive cases in different age groups. “By January, we saw a linear dependence of almost 100% between different age groups in new cases per 1,000 people,” says Dr. TAU Dan Yamin, who also participated in the study. “Two weeks after 50% of the 60+ population received the first dose of the vaccine, this chart broke abruptly and significantly.” During January, there was a dramatic drop in the number of new cases in the 60+ group, with the rest of the population continuing to rise, “he added.” Simply put, since more than 90% of deaths from Covid-19 were over 60, we can say that the vaccine has saved hundreds of lives – even in the short term. “The researchers also found that positive tests on 60+ residents of retirement homes generally represent a lower viral load compared to 60+ people in the general population.” “Because residents of retirement homes are routinely tested, while other people are usually tested only when they are not feeling well or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, we conclude that constant monitoring of at-risk populations is a working method,” he said. Munitz. “It is important to emphasize: A relatively low viral load was found in retirement homes, despite the fact that the British variant has already begun to spread in all populations. Accordingly, we show that monitoring retirement homes, along with vaccination that favors vulnerable populations, prevents disease and mortality. “