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This COVID-19 delta subvariant is spreading fast, but does it cause more symptoms?

The delta subvariant spreading in the U.K. has fewer symptoms

Cars lined up for COVID-19 testing.
Three cars are lined up for COVID-19 testing at the Mount Olympus Senior Center parking lot in Millcreek on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. A new delta subvariant of COVID-19 is spreading fast in the United Kingdom, but it might lead to fewer symptoms.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

A new delta subvariant of COVID-19 is spreading fast in the United Kingdom, but it might lead to fewer symptoms.

Per Bloomberg, the new delta subvariant accounts for about 12% of all collected samples gathered in recent weeks.

  • That’s a 2.8% daily growth rate for the variant from Oct. 19 to Nov. 5.
  • That said, “the new sub-variant seemed less likely to cause symptomatic COVID,” according to Bloomberg.
  • However, experts told Bloomberg it’s too early to say if this sub-variant is making people less sick.

The subvariant — called AY.4.2 — has made headlines lately for how fast it’s spreading in Europe. As I wrote for the Deseret News, the variant is reportedly 10% more transmissible than the original delta variant, which was already more transmissible than earlier variants of the novel coronavirus.

Christina Pagel, director of the Clinical Operational Research Unit at University College London, told CNBC there’s no reason to be concerned over the variant yet.

  • “Delta compared to alpha was around 60% more transmissible, it was doubling every week,” she said. “This is going up by a percent or two a week — it’s much, much slower. So in that sense, it’s not a big disaster like delta was. It will probably gradually replace delta over the next few months. But there’s no sign it’s more vaccine resistant, (so) at the moment I wouldn’t be panicking about it.”

But Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has called on researchers to study the variant more as a way to prevent massive spread in the U.S.

  • “We need urgent research to figure out if this delta plus is more transmissible, has partial immune evasion,” Gottlieb said in a tweet.
  • “There’s no clear indication that it’s considerably more transmissible, but we should work to more quickly characterize these and other new variants. We have the tools.”