A new study has found that the U.K. coronavirus variant, known as B.1.1.7, doesn't cause a more severe infection and is not deadlier than the original strain.
Scientists are trying to understand more about the new strain, which is more contagious and is now the dominant strain in the United States and Europe.
Researchers examined the cases of patients admitted to two hospitals in the United Kingdom from November 9 to December 20, when the new variant was just beginning to emerge.
"We were able to do this real-time analysis because we were in the eye of the storm," said a lead author of the study, Dan Frampton, a bioinformatician at University College London.
While patients with the variant had a higher "viral load" than patients with the original strain, they were not likely to have a severe infection, and their risk of death was not increased. The researchers said that patients with B.1.1.7 were more likely to require oxygen but added that is not necessarily a sign of a more severe infection.
The new study seems to contradict a previous study that found the new variant is linked to a higher mortality rate. Scientists said that more research needs to be done to better understand the variant and how it works.
"The new findings don't nullify the other papers — they just make you think," Dr. Eric Topol told NBC News. "Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle. This study says there's no higher death rate, but they did find more need for oxygen, so there's something going on there with respect to this variant."
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