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Directions of change in intrinsic case severity across successive SARS-CoV-2 variant waves have been inconsistent.

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Pascall, David J 
Vink, Elen 
Blacow, Rachel 
Bulteel, Naomi 
Campbell, Alasdair 


OBJECTIVES: To determine how the intrinsic severity of successively dominant SARS-CoV-2 variants changed over the course of the pandemic. METHODS: A retrospective cohort analysis in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHS GGC) Health Board. All sequenced non-nosocomial adult COVID-19 cases in NHS GGC with relevant SARS-CoV-2 lineages (B.1.177/Alpha, Alpha/Delta, AY.4.2 Delta/non-AY.4.2 Delta, non-AY.4.2 Delta/Omicron, and BA.1 Omicron/BA.2 Omicron) during analysis periods were included. Outcome measures were hospital admission, ICU admission, or death within 28 days of positive COVID-19 test. We report the cumulative odds ratio; the ratio of the odds that an individual experiences a severity event of a given level vs all lower severity levels for the resident and the replacement variant after adjustment. RESULTS: After adjustment for covariates, the cumulative odds ratio was 1.51 (95% CI: 1.08-2.11) for Alpha versus B.1.177, 2.09 (95% CI: 1.42-3.08) for Delta versus Alpha, 0.99 (95% CI: 0.76-1.27) for AY.4.2 Delta versus non-AY.4.2 Delta, 0.49 (95% CI: 0.22-1.06) for Omicron versus non-AY.4.2 Delta, and 0.86 (95% CI: 0.68-1.09) for BA.2 Omicron versus BA.1 Omicron. CONCLUSIONS: The direction of change in intrinsic severity between successively emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants was inconsistent, reminding us that the intrinsic severity of future SARS-CoV-2 variants remains uncertain.



Alpha variant, COVID-19, Delta variant, Intrinsic severity, Omicron variant, SARS-CoV-2

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J Infect

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Elsevier BV
MRC (via University of Warwick) (MR/V038613/1)
MRC (via Imperial College London) (MR/W005611/1)