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Northeast Indians less likely to die from COVID than Western Indians & Bangladeshis: Research on genes

Variation in a genetic mutation among Indians may be the main reason behind the difference in the death rates due to COVID-19 across various states of the country, according to a recent study

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Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  7 Oct 2020 12:58 PM GMT

Guwahati: With the number of COVID-19 deaths continuing to tick upwards across the world, Africa, which has some of the most underdeveloped nations in the world, is relatively well off. Why is it so? Read ahead to find out.

Genes a significant factor in the COVID-19 equation?

Research reveals that genes could play a crucial role in the severance of the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Scientists have also deduced that people in Western India and Bangladesh could be at a greater risk of during from the disease.

Last week, a Reuters report pointed out that the African nations were reporting a lower percentage of deaths in comparison to most of the countries. According to a recent report, the continent's case-fatality count stands at 2.4 percent, with roughly 35,000 deaths among the more than 1.4 million people reported infected with COVID-19. In comparison, highly-advanced Italy and Britain have recorded fatality counts of 11.6 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

According to the Reuters report, Africa's suspected "immunity" the viral disease could be due to a number of factors -- including the continent's youthful population and lessons learned from previous disease outbreaks.

With these researches coming to the fore, there is reason to believe that the variation in a genetic mutation among Indians may be the main reason behind the difference in the death rates due to COVID-19 in the various states.

Are Northeast Indians more likely to survive COVID-19?

Researchers at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Uttar Pradesh analyzed mutations in the gene responsible for the expression of the Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme-2 (ACE2), a protein on the surface of cells which is believed to act as a gateway for the novel coronavirus into the human body.

According to recent studies, the ACE2 is encoded by a gene located on the X chromosome. In the journal Frontiers in Genetics, the researchers looked at the frequency of this mutation described as rs2285666 haplotype among various states of India.

The frequency of this haplotype, or a combination of mutations, varied between 33-100 percent across different regions, research showed.

Researchers have found that the rs2285666-associated haplotype increases the ACE2 expression—this means the mutation reduces the susceptibility against coronavirus.

What this basically means is that if in a region more people with this haplotype will be present, the infectiousness of the virus would likely be 'lesser.'

Research shows that Maharashtra and Gujarat have the lowest frequency of the gene mutation of about 30-40 percent, while the Northeastern region with a 75-100 percent mutation in the gene has the highest frequency.

According to the latest figures, the Northeast Indian region has witnessed a comparatively low number of deaths due to the COVID-19. Most of these deaths (778) have been reported from Assam. Maharashtra, on the other hand, has reported 38,717 deaths. Gujarat in Western India has reported 3,419 deaths.

Do genes make a difference in the ability to fight off the COVID-19?

A recent study states that genes could play an important role in the way the virus affects the human body. Researchers Hugo Zeberg and Svante Paabo determined that the genes belong to a group, or haplotype, which likely came from Neanderthals -- ancient ancestors of the modern-day human (or homo sapien). The haplotype is found in about 16 percent of the population in Europe and half the population in South Asia, while in Africa and East Asia it is non-existent.

The genes are one of several risk factors for COVID-19, including age, sex, and pre-existing conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart problems. Thus, the researchers have concluded that the COVID-19 could be more of a threat in the "first world countries."

Several reports point to the fact that the prevalence of the particular Neanderthal gene group is highest in people from Bangladesh, where 63 percent of the people are estimated to carry a copy of the haplotype. Thus, the researchers have contended that Bangladeshi people are most likely to die from the COVID-19.

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