Covid severity: Experts probe genetic variants

CCMB study finds “the genetic variants responsible for Covid-19 severity among Europeans may not play a role in Covid-19 susceptibility among South Asians”

By   |  Published: 11th Jun 2021  10:19 pmUpdated: 12th Jun 2021  12:13 am
Photo: Surya Sridhar

Hyderabad: Are South Asians more susceptible to Covid-19 when compared to Europeans? Is there any genetic link that plays a role in the severity of Covid infection among people in Europe and South Asia?

An international team of researchers, led by chief scientist from city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and Director of Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD), Dr Kumaraswamy Thangaraj, in a study have attempted to achieve some clarity on such challenging issues by analysing the role of a DNA segment, which is strongly associated with severe Covid-19 infection and hospitalisation among Europeans.

An earlier research done on European population suggested variations in a specific DNA segment associated with severe Covid-19 infection. This DNA segment is present in 50 per cent of South Asians as compared to 16 per cent in Europeans.

In the CCMB-led study, the group of researchers concluded that “the genetic variants responsible for Covid-19 severity among Europeans may not play a role in Covid-19 susceptibility among South Asian”.  This finding has been published in the journal Scientific Reports of the Nature magazine.

“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”, Dr Thangaraj said.

The first author of the study, Prajival Pratap Singh said “Our result reiterates the unique genetic origin of South Asian populations. A dedicated Genome-wide Association Study on South Asian Covid-19 patients is the need of time for us in the Asian sub-continent”.

Director of CCMB, Dr Vinay Nandicoori said that several factors could be contributing to Covid-19 severity. “With growing data, it is becoming quite clear that there are several factors including genetics, immunity and lifestyle, are contributing factors for Covid-19 susceptibility. CCMB’s expertise in population studies are proving useful in understanding these details of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Other participants in the study included 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.