The UK Covid variant could stay in the body longer - and self-isolation times may need to increase as a result

Thursday, 18th February 2021, 1:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th February 2021, 1:07 pm
If further data confirms the findings, the 10 day self-isolation period may have to be extended (Photo: Shutterstock)

A small study has suggested that the so-called 'UK variant' of coronavirus may take longer for the immune system to clear.

Scientists from several US universities - including Harvard and Yale - conducted the research on 65 people who were infected with coronavirus, finding that the immune system took almost 30 per cent longer to clear infection in cases of the Covid variant, first detected in Kent and now the dominant strain of infections in the UK.

Separate research from the University of Birmingham and Public Health England (PHE) suggests that the variant also generates a higher viral load in people infected by it.

Both studies may go some way to explaining why this variant of coronavirus is so fast-spreading and dominant among the UK population.

Will isolation periods need to be increased?

The small American study of the variant (known officially as B117) found that the mean duration for which it was replicating and accumulating in the body was an average of 5.3 days - significantly longer than the two day average for other variants.