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New Studies of B.1.1.7

Two new studies suggest that while the B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant first identified in the UK may be more transmissible, it might not lead to increased COVID-19 severity, CNN reports.

B.1.1.7, NPR adds, has since spread and is now the most common lineage in the US. Previous studies have suggested that the variant might be not only more easily spread, but also more deadly.

In one of the new studies, appearing in Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers examined samples from 341 patients with COVID-19, 58 percent of whom had the B.1.1.7 variant and 42 percent of whom did not. The University College London-led team found no link between viral variant and severe disease or death, though they did note that viral load appeared higher among patients with B.1.1.7 variant infections.

"One idea for why this variant is more transmissible could be that patients are making more virus," first author Dan Frampton, a bioinformatician at UCL, tells NBC News.

In the other study, published in Lancet Public Health, a King's College London-led team examined whether there were changes in reported symptoms — collected via an app — in a region and the portion of B.1.1.7 variant infections there. As CNN notes, they uncovered no changes in symptoms or disease duration.

The Scan

Guidelines for Ancient DNA Work

More than two dozen researchers have developed new ethical guidelines for conducting ancient DNA research, which they present in Nature.

And Cleared

A UK regulator has cleared former UK Prime Minister David Cameron in concerns he should have registered as a consultant-lobbyist for his work with Illumina, according to the Financial Times.

Suit Over Allegations

The Boston Globe reports that David Sabatini, who was placed on leave from MIT after allegations of sexual harassment, is suing his accuser, the Whitehead Institute, and the institute's director.

Nature Papers on Esophageal Cancer, Origin of Modern Horses, Exome Sequencing of UK Biobank Participants

In Nature this week: genetic and environmental influences of esophageal cancer, domestic horse origin traced to Western Eurasian steppes, and more.