New Covid strain under study and ‘more contagious than Delta variant’

A new Covid strain, which scientists say is more contagious than the common Delta variant, is ‘under investigation’.

The AY.4.2 mutation, which officials are monitoring as a “variant under investigation”, represented a staggering 11.8 percent of infections in the UK from mid-October to early November.

Researchers said that people infected with AY.4.2 are more likely to be asymptomatic compared to those infected with other variants of coronavirus.

Only one-third of people carrying AY.4.2 showed common symptoms of coronavirus such as persistent cough, loss or change in taste and smell and fever.

READ MORE: Study confirms that wearing a mask significantly reduces the chances of spreading Covid-19

This compares with individuals carrying the Delta variant, 46 percent of whom show typical symptoms.

The AY variants of the virus are considered as a subgenus of the Delta variant with 75 AY strains identified so far

The most prevalent in the same time period was AY.4, a new strain that researchers say is more likely to result in asymptomatic infection.

In fact, 63 percent of new cases in October were caused by AY.4.

Christl Donnelly, professor of statistical epidemiology at Imperial College London, believes the new strain is more contagious than the common Delta variant.

He said: “It is absolutely the case that if people wait for symptoms to take a test and therefore identify that they are infected and therefore cut their contacts down, being asymptomatic for example can facilitate the transmission.

“It’s asymptomatic transmission that can really make the difference between what’s relatively easy to contain and what requires vaccination.”

This comes as new data suggests that coronavirus rates in the UK are similar to what they were in January this year, shortly after the peak of the second wave.

The study notes that in mid-October to early November 2021, the incidence of coronavirus was 1.57 percent – the same as January – compared to 0.83 percent in September.

It is difficult for people to assess when to take a test as the newer variant results in more asymptomatic cases

According to the data, the prevalence between rounds 14 and 15 of Imperial College London’s React-1 study increased across most age groups and regions.

From October 19 to November 5, round 15, there was a decrease in prevalence from a peak around 20 to 21 October.

School-age children had the highest infection rates with a prevalence of 4.95 percent in those aged 5 to 12 and 5.21 percent in those aged 13 to 17.

The data suggest that all the cases were the Delta variant or similar.

Researchers say that the observational nature of the study data and the relatively small proportion of unvaccinated adults call into question the comparability of vaccinated and unvaccinated groups.

However, they found that third-dose vaccines for eligible adults and vaccination of children 12 years of age and older are associated with lower risk of infection.

The researchers say that they should therefore continue to be given high priority – with possible expansion for children aged 5-12 years – and that this should help to reduce the Covid transfer over the winter.

The study is published as a pre-print that has not been through peer review and has not been published in a journal.


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