Research Highlight

Genetic variation linked to lower COVID-19 case fatality rates

doi:10.1038/nindia.2020.151 Published online 29 September 2020

The novel coronavirus infects human cells by binding to a cell-surface protein known as angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Previous studies have hinted that the frequency of a variation (rs2285666) in the gene that encodes ACE2 is strikingly different among Europeans and Asians.

Researchers now say that a lower frequency of this genetic variation found in Indian populations might be the reason behind lower infection rates and lower case-fatality rates of COVID-19 as compared to other ethnic groups1.

Scientists from the Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi and Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeoscience in Lucknow, India analysed the frequency of the genetic variation in Indian populations and compared it with that of other populations from Asia, America and Africa. 

Their analysis showed a strong negative correlation of the genetic variation with the number of cases and case-fatality ratio among Indians. This, the researchers say, suggests a possibility of the genetic variation being associated with a protective role against COVID-19.

If more such genetic variations can be linked to COVID-19 susceptibility, it would be possible to design a cheap and accurate DNA-based test for detecting vulnerable people, they say.


References

1. Srivastava, A. et al. Genetic Association of ACE2 rs2285666 Polymorphism with COVID-19 Spatial Distribution in India. Front. Genet. (2020) doi: 10.3389/fgene.2020.564741