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Changes in symptomatology, reinfection, and transmissibility associated with the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7: an ecological study

Graham, MS; Sudre, CH; May, A; Antonelli, M; Murray, B; Varsaysky, T; Klaser, K; ... Ourselin, S; + view all (2021) Changes in symptomatology, reinfection, and transmissibility associated with the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7: an ecological study. Lancet Public Health , 6 (5) E335-E345. 10.1016/S2468-2667(21)00055-4. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: The SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 was first identified in December, 2020, in England. We aimed to investigate whether increases in the proportion of infections with this variant are associated with differences in symptoms or disease course, reinfection rates, or transmissibility. Methods: We did an ecological study to examine the association between the regional proportion of infections with the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant and reported symptoms, disease course, rates of reinfection, and transmissibility. Data on types and duration of symptoms were obtained from longitudinal reports from users of the COVID Symptom Study app who reported a positive test for COVID-19 between Sept 28 and Dec 27, 2020 (during which the prevalence of B.1.1.7 increased most notably in parts of the UK). From this dataset, we also estimated the frequency of possible reinfection, defined as the presence of two reported positive tests separated by more than 90 days with a period of reporting no symptoms for more than 7 days before the second positive test. The proportion of SARS-CoV-2 infections with the B.1.1.7 variant across the UK was estimated with use of genomic data from the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium and data from Public Health England on spike-gene target failure (a non-specific indicator of the B.1.1.7 variant) in community cases in England. We used linear regression to examine the association between reported symptoms and proportion of B.1.1.7. We assessed the Spearman correlation between the proportion of B.1.1.7 cases and number of reinfections over time, and between the number of positive tests and reinfections. We estimated incidence for B.1.1.7 and previous variants, and compared the effective reproduction number, Rt, for the two incidence estimates. Findings: From Sept 28 to Dec 27, 2020, positive COVID-19 tests were reported by 36 920 COVID Symptom Study app users whose region was known and who reported as healthy on app sign-up. We found no changes in reported symptoms or disease duration associated with B.1.1.7. For the same period, possible reinfections were identified in 249 (0·7% [95% CI 0·6–0·8]) of 36 509 app users who reported a positive swab test before Oct 1, 2020, but there was no evidence that the frequency of reinfections was higher for the B.1.1.7 variant than for pre-existing variants. Reinfection occurrences were more positively correlated with the overall regional rise in cases (Spearman correlation 0·56–0·69 for South East, London, and East of England) than with the regional increase in the proportion of infections with the B.1.1.7 variant (Spearman correlation 0·38–0·56 in the same regions), suggesting B.1.1.7 does not substantially alter the risk of reinfection. We found a multiplicative increase in the Rt of B.1.1.7 by a factor of 1·35 (95% CI 1·02–1·69) relative to pre-existing variants. However, Rt fell below 1 during regional and national lockdowns, even in regions with high proportions of infections with the B.1.1.7 variant. Interpretation: The lack of change in symptoms identified in this study indicates that existing testing and surveillance infrastructure do not need to change specifically for the B.1.1.7 variant. In addition, given that there was no apparent increase in the reinfection rate, vaccines are likely to remain effective against the B.1.1.7 variant.

Type: Article
Title: Changes in symptomatology, reinfection, and transmissibility associated with the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7: an ecological study
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/S2468-2667(21)00055-4
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(21)00055-4
Language: English
Additional information: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY 4·0 license.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Cancer Institute
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Cancer Institute > Research Department of Oncology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Medicine
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science > Population Science and Experimental Medicine
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science > Population Science and Experimental Medicine > MRC Unit for Lifelong Hlth and Ageing
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health > Genetics and Genomic Medicine Dept
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10128652
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