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Shift Younger

As a new SARS-CoV-2 strain spread across the UK, officials there noticed an increased number of younger patients and women with more serious disease, the Wall Street Journal reports

UK officials announced last month that they identified a new SARS-CoV-2 strain that appears to be more infectious and, more recently, have suggested it could be linked to increased mortality.

New statistics, the Journal reports, show that the mean age of patients admitted to intensive care units has fallen from 61.4 years in September through November to 58.9 years by December and January in southeast England where the new strain was first found. In the same time period, it adds that women have made up a greater share of ICU patients, increasing from 30.1 percent to 35.1 percent. It notes that older individuals and men have tended to have more severe symptoms earlier in the pandemic.

According to the Journal, one suspicion is that the N501Y spike protein mutation the strain has makes it easier for the virus to enter and infect host cells as well as better evade the host immune response. A more efficient entry could mean that a lower dose of the virus is needed to become ill, it adds.

Other doctors, though, suspect the increase in younger patients is due to behavioral changes and spread at holiday gatherings, the Journal notes.