The SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant of concern (VOC) is increasing in prevalence across Europe. Accurate estimation of disease severity associated with this VOC is critical for pandemic planning. We found increased risk of death for VOC compared with non-VOC cases in England (hazard ratio: 1.67; 95% confidence interval: 1.34-2.09; p<0.0001). Absolute risk of death by 28 days increased with age and comorbidities. This VOC has potential to spread faster with higher mortality than the pandemic to date The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variant of concern B.1.1.7 (VOC) was first identified in Kent, United Kingdom (UK) in autumn 2020. Early analysis suggests it is more transmissible than previously circulating forms (non-VOC) [1]. It is now the dominant strain throughout the UK and is increasing in prevalence across Europe [2]. Early reports of increased mortality have not included data on individuals' comorbidities, and this information is needed to facilitate pandemic planning. Certain PCR assays for SARS-CoV-2 do not amplify one of the spike protein gene targets in this VOC. Spike gene target failure (SGTF) is therefore a proxy for VOC identification, with greater than 95% sensitivity for VOC diagnosis during the period from 16 November to 11 January [3]. Working on behalf of NHS England, we estimate the risk of death following confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 infection in England, comparing infection with VOC to non-VOC, after accounting for demographic factors and comorbidities. The code and configuration of our analysis is available online (github.com/opensafely/ sgtf-cfr-research).

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Grint, D., Wing, K., Williamson, E., McDonald, H., Bhaskaran, K., Evans, D., Evans, S., Walker, A., Hickman, G., Nightingale, E., Schultze, A., Rentsch, C., Bates, C., Cockburn, J., Curtis, H., Morton, C., Bacon, S., Davy, S., Wong, A., Mehrkar, A., Tomlinson, L., Douglas, I., Mathur, R., Blomquist, P., Mackenna, B., Inglesby, P., Croker, R., Parry, J., Hester, F., Harper, S., DeVito, N., Hulme, W., Tazare, J., Goldacre, B., Smeeth, L. & Eggo, R. 2021, 'Case fatality risk of the SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern B.1.1.7 in England, 16 November to 5 February', Eurosurveillance, 26(11), article no: 2100256. https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2021.26.11.2100256

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Last updated: 18 October 2023
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