B.1.617.2 SARS-CoV-2 (Delta) variant is associated with increased risk of hospitalization and death compared with B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 (Alpha) variant
Introduction The B.1.617.2 variant (Delta) was associated with increased transmissibility and lower vaccine effectiveness than the B.1.1.7 variant (Alpha). However, the effect of the B.1.617.2 variant on disease severity remains unclear. This study aims to assess whether infection with the B.1.617.2 variant was associated with a higher risk of serious illness, compared with other co-circulating variants, measured through hospitalization and death by COVID-19 in Portugal. Methods We conducted a
... atched cohort study in adult individuals diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 infection between March 29 and August 1, 2021. Cases were individuals with a positive PCR test notified to the surveillance system. SARS-CoV-2 variants were classified first by genomic sequencing (WGS) and, if this information was unavailable, by detecting the S gene target failure. Delta (B.1.617.2) and Alpha (B.1.1.7) cases were matched on the week of diagnosis at a 1 to k ratio (k being the maximum number of unexposed available in that week) to maximize the inclusion of unexposed, using the nearest-neighbor algorithm. The hazard risk and 95% confidence intervals of hospitalization and death among those infected with the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant vs. Alpha (B.1.1.7) was estimated using a Cox proportional hazards model, adjusting for confounding for sex, age, and vaccination status. Results A total of 2,778 cases were included in the study. Of the total, 1 742 (68%) were identified as B.1.617.2 variant cases and 3 629 (32%) as B.1.1.7 variant. Within the B.1.1.7 variant cases 106 (2.9%) were hospitalized, and 110 (6.3%) within the B.1.617.2 variant cases. A total of 29 deaths were reported, 8 (0.2%) in patients infected with B.1.1.7 variant and 21 (1.2%) in patients with the B.1.617.2 variant. The confounding adjusted risk of hospitalization, in persons infected with the B.1.617.2 variant was 2.44 (95%CI 1.85; 3.20) times higher than the risk of hospitalization among B.1.1.7 variant cases, and the confounding-adjusted risk of death for B.1.617.2 variant cases was 5.20 (95%CI 2.20; 12.29) times higher than the risk of death in patients infected by B.1.1.7 variant. Conclusion The B.1.617.2 variant is associated with an increased risk of hospitalization and death compared with the B.1.1.7 variant.