COVID-19 death risk 64% higher for UK variant, study suggests

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Patients ages 30 and older infected with the U.K. coronavirus variant had a 64 percent higher death risk than those infected with previously circulating strains, according to a U.K. study published March 10 in The BMJ.

Researchers at the University of Exeter in England analyzed data on 109,812 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in community-based testing centers between Oct. 1, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021. Study participants were paired based on personal characteristics, geography and time of testing to control for potential biases, such as variations in hospital capacity.

In total, 0.3 percent of the 109,812 patients died. Of the 54,906 patients infected with the B.1.1.7 variant, 0.4 percent died compared to 0.3 percent of those infected with other strains.

The hazard ratio for death within 28 days of diagnosis for patients with the U.K. variant — compared to previously circulating strains — was 1.64, which translates to a 64 percent increased risk of death, researchers found. 

"The absolute risk of death in this group of community-identified participants, however, remains relatively low," the researchers said.

As the research only included about 8 percent of COVID-19 deaths recorded in England during the study period, the findings may not be transferable to other settings or age groups, the researchers added.

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