In a new study, researchers found that the COVID-19 strain that first emerged in Britain is 64% more deadly than pre-existing strains.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Exeter and elsewhere.
The British variant is one of several to have emerged in recent months from countries with large epidemics, raising the stakes in the race to rein in the pandemic.
In the study, the team compared data for nearly 55,000 pairs of participants who tested positive in the community—rather than in hospitals—between October and January and followed them for 28 days.
They found that those infected with the new variant, known as B.1.1.7, were 64% more likely to die.
Community testing tends to pick up more low-risk cases.
The researchers said that if the findings were able to be generalized to other populations, the variant may cause substantial additional mortality compared with previously circulating variants.
They say the increased lethality added to its faster spread meant that this version of the virus can be a big challenge to healthcare systems and policymakers.
It also makes it even more important people get vaccinated when called.
Other researchers warn that the more COVID-19 there is, the more chance there is of a new variant of concern emerging. This included the possibility of variants that could affect vaccination.
One author of the study is Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology.
The study is published in British Medical Journal.
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