London, Dec 30: The hypothesis that the fast-spreading UK variant of the COVID-19 virus has a transmission advantage has been bolstered by an analysis that suggests it is linked to higher loads of the virus in respiratory samples.
The variant, named B117, was discovered during an investigation into why coronavirus cases in Kent continued to rise during the November lockdown. Scientists found it continued to spread during the restrictions while older variants declined.
Some of the lighthouse laboratories created in April to boost COVID-19 testing capacity in places such as London and Manchester were beginning to see evidence of the new variant in respiratory samples when the COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium sounded the alarm about B117 and its transmission advantage.
“It does seem as though the patients with this variant have higher viral loads—then the obvious thing is it is easier for them to spread it to other people,” Dr Michael Kidd said, cautioning that the data was preliminary and more evidence needed to be collected before firm conclusions could be drawn.