The Kent Covid-19 strain is no more deadly than the original strain but increases risk of hospitalisation by one-third, a study suggests.
The findings have been made by Public Health England, following a study that examined 2,821 coronavirus cases involving the Kent B.1.1.7 variant, alongside the same number of cases involving other strains.
The Kent mutant strain is so-called because scientists believe it to have originated in a person from the county - and is thought to be more transmissible than previous strains.
A new study by PHE has found "a 34% increased risk in hospitalisation associated with the [Kent] variant compared to wild-type cases" which suggested "increased infection severity associated with this variant".
"However," it adds, "no significant difference in the risk of mortality was observed".
PHE concluded that "follow-up studies are needed to assess potential longer-term differences in the clinical outcomes of people infected with the [Kent] variant".
The findings appear to contradict previous studies, which have found the Kent variant could be up to twice as deadly as previous strains of Covid-19.
A study carried out by epidemiologists from the Universities of Exeter and Bristol found the Kent variant is associated with a significantly higher mortality rate among adults diagnosed in the community compared with previously circulating strains.
In that study, researchers found that the variant first detected in Kent led to 227 deaths in a sample of 54,906 patients – compared with 141 among the same number of closely matched patients who had the previous strains.
PHE says it is continuing to research this variant and others, in order to learn more.