‘Ethnic populations more vulnerable to Covid’

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on October 14, 2021

Populations that follow endogamy are at higher risk, says CCMD study

Ethnic populations with a low level of genetic diversity are more vulnerable to infectious diseases, more so to the Covid-19 pandemic. High levels of genetic diversity help populations tackle infectious diseases better, while populations that follow the practice of endogamy (the practice of restricting marriages within the communities, clans) are vulnerable to Covid-19, a study says.

A study by the scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) found that small and isolation populations are at a higher risk and require higher priority in rolling out protective measures.

Twice the death rate

Results of the study, published in an international journal Genes and Immunity, said that a high level of genetic diversity would help populations face infectious diseases better. “The infection of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has impacted various ethnic groups all over the world. Recent studies suggest that the indigenous groups in Brazil have been massively affected by the pandemic,” a CCMB statement has said. “The death rate was twice high among the indigenous communities of Brazil. It was also shown that many of the indigenous communities have reached the verge of extinction due to this pandemic,” it said.

A team of scientists led by Kumarasamy Thangaraj from CCMB, who is presently Director of CDFD (Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad) and Gyaneshwer Chaubey of BHU, Varanasi, has conducted a genomic analysis of several Indian populations.

“They found that populations that carry similar long DNA segments (homozygous) in their genome are most likely to be more susceptible to Covid-19,” it said.

The team investigated a high-density genomic data of over 1,600 individuals from 227 ethnic populations.

“We found high frequency of contiguous lengths of homozygous genes among Onge, Jarawa (Andaman Tribes) and a few more populations who are in isolation and follow a strict endogamy, making them highly susceptible for Covid-19 infection,” Thangaraj, who traced the origin of Andaman Islanders, said.

“Results suggest that we need to have a high priority protection and utmost care for the isolated populations, so that we don’t lose some of the living treasures of modern human evolution,” Vinay Kumar Nandicoori, Director of CCMB, said.

Published on October 14, 2021

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