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International study including experts from BHU contradict western theory on susceptibility of Covid infection – Times of India

PRAYAGRAJ: Contradicting the earlier study, carried out by a team of scientists of Max Planck Institute Germany suggesting that infection and susceptibility rate risk in Covid-19 pandemic is 50 percent in terms of South Asians as compared to 16 percent for Europeans, an international team of scientists have analysed the role of this DNA segment, the one mentioned in UK based study, and have found out that the UK theory does not stand ground when the data in India and Bangladesh are analysed in three different time frames of year 2020.

An earlier research on European population studied variations in a specific DNA segment and found that modern humans inherited this DNA from Neanderthal which is strongly associated with severe COVID-19 infection and hospitalisation. The theory had suggested that the genome, responsible for severe infection of Covid-19, is present in 50 percent of South Asians and just 16 percent of Europeans.

In a recent study, led by Director, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics & Chief Scientist, CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad Kumarasamy Thangaraj and Prof Gyaneshwer Chaubey of the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi have concluded that the genetic variants responsible for COVID-19 severity among Europeans may not play a role in COVID-19 susceptibility among South Asians. This finding has been published in the journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature, US.

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“In this study, we have compared infection and case fatality rates with South Asian genomic data over three different timelines during the pandemic. We have especially looked into a large number of populations from India and Bangladesh”, said Thangaraj.

“Our result reiterates the unique genetic origin of South Asian populations and we suggest a dedicated genome-wide association study on South Asian COVID-19 patients is the need of the hour in the Asian sub-continent”, said Prajjval Pratap Singh, first author of this study.

“Due to the long term and complex genomic history of South Asia, it is likely that we’ll always experience a variable degree of susceptibility for any diseases. This study is consistent with our previous work on ACE2 gene which showed a strong genetic correlation with cases and case fatality rate in India in comparison to presence of ACE2 gene in Indian population”, said Prof Chaubey of BHU.

The study also suggests that the genetic variants correlated with COVID-19 outcomes differ significantly among caste and tribal populations of Bangladesh.

“Scientists working in the area of population studies should be more cautious to interpret their findings by differentiating caste and tribal populations, more explicitly so in the Bangladeshi population”, said Prof George van Driem a renowned linguist and co-author of the study.

“Apart from host genomics we should also focus on which variants are likely to escape the host defense of those already vaccinated”, said Prof Anil K Tripathi, Director Institute of Science BHU.

Other participants of this study include: Anshika Srivastava and Nargis Khanam from BHU, Varanasi; Dr Abhishek Pathak and Prof Royana Singh, Institute of Medical Sciences, BHU; Dr Gazi Sultana from Dhaka University, Bangladesh; Dr Pankaj Shrivastava, Forensic Science Laboratory, Sagar, MP; and Dr Prashanth Suravanjhala, Birla Institute of Scientific Research, Jaipur.

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