People infected with the new variant of coronavirus that first emerged in the UK are less likely to report a loss of taste or smell, but more likely to report “classic” symptoms, such as coughing, sore throat or fatigue, a survey has found.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the symptom of impaired taste and smell in those with Covid-19 was “significantly less common” in people who tested positive for the new variant compared with those who had other variants.
However, there was no evidence of any difference in symptoms related to shortness of breath or headaches, according to the provisional data published in the organisation’s infection survey.
The data also indicated that people infected with the new variant were more likely to report having symptoms. These were self-reported and not professionally diagnosed, and cover the period between 15 November and 16 January.
The ONS’s regular Covid-19 infection survey collects data from people in private households in England.
It comes after prime minister Boris Johnson announced last week that the new variant spreading across the UK is more transmissible and potentially more deadly compared with previous versions of the virus.
It was first detected in the southeast of England in September and is thought to have been responsible for the rapid surge in coronavirus cases in the region and across the country.
Lawrence Young, virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said the mutations in the virus could “influence the symptoms associated with infection”.
“This variant is more transmissible and infected individuals appear to have higher virus loads which means they produce more virus. This could result in more widespread infection within the body, perhaps accounting for more coughs, muscle pain and tiredness,” said Prof Young.
“The virus has 23 changes compared to the original Wuhan virus. Some of these changes in different parts of the virus could affect the body’s immune response and also influence the range of symptoms associated with infection.”