Podcast 631: UK COVID-19 Variant - The Emergency Medical Minute

Podcast 631: UK COVID-19 Variant

Contributor: Gretchen Hinson, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Viruses mutate frequently and a new variant of COVID has been found in the United Kingdom.
  • Mutations typically occur due to transcription errors during virus replication leading to slight changes in the virus which can alter its virulence, and this UK mutation has shown more infectivity.
  • The UK variant was first identified on 9/20/20 and sequenced in October. The variant has a mutation of its spike protein with increased receptor binding capacity, meaning more infective.
  • This variant has a 71% increased rate of transmission while typically causing a higher viral load.
  • Children seem to be more susceptible to this variant as compared to the prior COVID strains.


1) Grubaugh ND, Hanage WP, Rasmussen AL. Making Sense of Mutation: What D614G Means for the COVID-19 Pandemic Remains Unclear. Cell. 2020 Aug 20;182(4):794-795. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.06.040. Epub 2020 Jul 3. PMID: 32697970; PMCID: PMC7332445.

2) Tang JW, Tambyah PA, Hui DS. Emergence of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant in the UK. J Infect. 2020 Dec 28:S0163-4453(20)30786-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2020.12.024. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33383088.

Summarized by Jackson Roos, MS4 | Edited by Erik Verzemnieks, MD

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