New Delhi: The major genetic risk factor for COVID-19 severity in European population may not increase the susceptibility to the disease among South Asians, according to a study that used data from India and Bangladesh.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists have wondered why some people experience more severe symptoms and adverse outcomes from COVID-19 than others.

An earlier research done on European population suggested variations in a specific segment of DNA, or genetic material, is strongly associated with severe COVID-19 infection and hospitalisation.

This DNA segment is present in 50 per cent of South Asians as compared to 16 per cent of Europeans.

A team of scientists, led by Kumarasamy Thangaraj, from CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad and Professor Gyaneshwer Chaubey, from Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi, analysed the role of this DNA segment in determining COVID-19 outcomes among the South Asian population.

The finding, published in the journal Scientific Reports on Friday, concluded that the genetic variants responsible for COVID-19 severity among Europeans may not play a role in disease susceptibility among South Asians.

“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,” Thangaraj.

“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,” said Chaubey, first author of the study.

Also read: Besides Covishield & Covaxin, what other COVID vaccines are being developed in India?

The research 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 Professor George van Driem, from The University of Bern in Switzerland.

With growing data, it is becoming quite clear that there are several factors including genetics, immunity and the lifestyle are the contributing factor for COVID-19 susceptibility,” said Driem, a co-author of the study.

Other participants of this study included researchers from Dhaka University, Bangladesh, Forensic Science Laboratory in Madhya Pradesh, and Birla Institute of Scientific Research, Jaipur.

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