The Hyderabad based CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) scientists have found that SARS-CoV-2 has impacted various ethnic groups all over the world and populations carrying similar long DNA segments, called ‘homozygous’ genes in their genome, are most likely to be more susceptible to the infection. Homozygous’ genes or identical genes inherited from parents in their genome are more predominant among the communities who follow endogamy of marrying within a community or tribe.
CCMB scientist Kumarasamy Thangaraj, who is also the director of Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, and Gyaneshwer Chaubey of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) have jointly led the genomic analysis of several Indian populations following reports that coronavirus has impacted various ethnic indigenous groups across the world. An official release stated that India has several indigenous and smaller communities, like Andaman Islanders, who are living in isolation for tens of thousands of years.
The latest study shows a high frequency of contiguous lengths of homozygous genes among Onge, Jarawa that are Andaman tribes and a few more populations, making them highly susceptible to COVID-19. Dr Thangaraj, who traced the origin of Andaman Islanders, said they have investigated a high-density genomic data of more than 16,00 individuals from 227 ethnic populations and also assessed the ACE2 gene variants that make individuals susceptible to COVID-19. They also found that the Jarawa and Onge populations also have high frequency of these mutations. Molecular Anthropology professor at BHU, Chaubey, said for the first time, they have used genomic data to assess the risk of COVID on the small and isolated populations. The findings have been published in Genes and Immunity journal recently.