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Background The Alpha (B.1.1.7) SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern has been associated with increased transmission and increased 28-day mortality. We aimed to investigate the impact of infection on clinical severity of illness, including the need for oxygen or ventilation in a national cohort study. Methods In this prospective clinical cohort study, 1475 SARS-CoV-2 sequences were obtained from patients infected in Scotland, UK between the 1st November 2020 and 30th January 2021 and matched to clinical outcomes as the lineage became dominant in Scotland. We modelled the association between B.1.1.7 infection and severe disease using a cumulative generalised linear mixed model employing a 4-point scale of maximum severity based on requirement of respiratory support at 28 days. We also estimated the growth rate of B.1.1.7-associated infections as it emerged in Scotland using a phylogenetic exponential growth rate population model. Results The B.1.1.7 lineage was responsible for a third wave of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Scotland in association with a transmission rate 5-fold higher than the preceding second wave B.1.177 lineage. Of 1475 patients, 364 were infected with B.1.1.7, 1030 with B.1.177 and 81 with other lineages. Our analysis found a positive association between increased clinical severity and lineage (B.1.1.7 versus non-B.1.1.7; cumulative odds ratio: 1.40, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.93). Viral load was higher in B.1.1.7 samples than in non-B.1.1.7 samples, as measured by cycle threshold (Ct) value (mean Ct change: -2.46, 95% CI: -4.22, -0.70). Conclusions The B.1.1.7 lineage was associated with more severe clinical disease in Scottish patients than co-circulating lineages.

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