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Corona variant B.1.1.7, which was initially discovered in Great Britain, is, according to two current studies, more contagious than the original form, but not more deadly.
This is the conclusion of researchers in separate studies that were published on Tuesday in the journals "The Lancet Infectious Diseases" and "The Lancet Public Health".
Previously, there had been some assumptions that variant B.1.1.7 was not only easier to transmit than the wild-type virus, but could also lead to higher patient mortality.
In one of the studies, researchers from University College London examined the data of 341 patients who tested positive at the end of last year when the British variant spread rapidly in southern England.
Variant B.1.1.7 was detected in 58 percent of them.
Of this group, 36 percent became seriously ill or died - in the group of patients not infected with this variant, the figure was 38 percent.
This suggests that there is no connection between B.1.1.7 and an increased risk of severe infection.
They also used PCR tests to evaluate the viral load of infected people.
In those infected with the so-called British variant, they found a higher viral load.
According to the study data, patients with the British variant tended to be younger, and there were more infections with B.1.1.7 among members of ethnic minorities.
The second study published on Tuesday is based on data from 36,920 Brits who tested positive for Corona between September 28 and December 27, 2020 and who used an app on Covid-19 symptoms.
Accordingly, the reproduction rate in those infected with variant B.1.1.7 was 1.35 times higher than in other infected people.
Again, there was no evidence of more severe illnesses caused by the British virus variant.
Since the studies were both carried out last winter in London and southern England, where variant B.1.1.7 was spreading rapidly at that time, the researchers had good comparability of the two variants.
Three scientists from the National Center for Infectious Diseases in Singapore said the study contradicts three previous studies that found the British variant was more deadly than others.
The advantage of this study, however, is that it is based on the sequencing of entire genomes and a wide range of patients and disease cases.
Sean Wei Xiang Ong, Barnaby Edward Young and David Chien Lye, who were not involved in the current studies, demanded the results are "reassuring", but need to be confirmed by more extensive studies.
kry / AFP / dpa