The B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant first discovered in Britain spreads more easily that older strains, sending more people to the hospital, but it doesn't lead to more severe cases or higher rates of death once patients are hospitalized, a study published Monday in the journal The Lance Infectious Disease found.
"If you need hospitalization, you're not worse with this variant compared to the previous virus strain," said Eleni Nastouli, senior author of the paper and a clinical virologist and pediatrician at University College London. "Of course, if you're requiring hospital admission for COVID, that is a worry," she conceded. "But it's not more than the previous strain."
It has been clear for months that the B.1.1.7 variant is more contagious than earlier ones, and other researchers have found that it is deadlier overall. One of those researchers, Nicholas Davies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told The Wall Street Journal the new study doesn't contradict the other ones. The current evidence points to the U.K. strain being "more likely to land you in the hospital," he said, but no likelier to have a bad outcome once you are hospitalized.
The study was conducted last fall, before a B.1.1.7-fueled surge overwhelmed British hospitals.