Oxford scientists discovered that a specific gene in South Asians doubles the risk of dying of the coronavirus infection due to respiratory failure and could potentially be the reason why some groups are more vulnerable to the disease compared to others.

The study found a higher-risk version of the South Asian gene was preventing cells lining airways and the lungs from reacting to the infection properly. Scientists discovered that roughly 60% of people who had South Asian ancestry were carrying the high-risk gene. The numbers were relatively high compared to only 15% of people with a European heritage.

High-Risk Gene in South Asians

The researchers' findings may help to explain why certain communities and people on the Indian subcontinent are suffering from higher rates of hospitalization and death related to the coronavirus. Authors of the study, however, warned that the gene was not the only reason for the phenomena as there were several other factors affecting the numbers, including socio-economic conditions, the South China Morning Post reported.

The gene is known as LZTFL1, and people who have it benefit from getting the coronavirus vaccine said the authors. The results of the study also raise the possibility of health officials looking into treatments tailored specifically for patients with the gene.

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Co-lead author and associate professor of genomics at Oxford, James Davies, said the study showed that the way a person's lungs responded to the coronavirus infection was crucial. He said that it was important because the majority of treatments focused on changing how an individual's immune system responds to the virus.

The study's researchers used artificial intelligence and cutting-edge molecular technology to find the gene. The researchers developed and trained an algorithm to analyze large quantities of genetic data from hundreds of different cells in the human body. The technology was able to help them find the DNA behind the specific genetic signal, Bloomberg reported.

Spread of the Coronavirus Infection

The Oxford scientists believe that the high-risk gene is present in roughly 2% of people from African-Caribbean backgrounds and in about 1.8% of people of East Asian descent. While the gene was correlated to an increased risk of dying of the coronavirus infection, Davies said that other factors affect how an individual responds to the virus, including their age.

The situation comes as the coronavirus continues to threaten people worldwide, and the World Health Organization (WHO) argues that Europe has become the coronavirus epicenter after a surge in the number of infections and deaths. The WHO's Europe head said on Thursday that the infection was spreading further in the region in recent weeks.

During a media briefing, WHO's Hans Kluge said that the transmission rate of coronavirus infection among the 53 European countries was of "grave concern." The official added that new cases were very close to reaching peak levels since the start of the health crisis. The recent surge is exacerbated by the highly transmissible Delta variant. "We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of COVID-19 to preventing them from happening in the first place, said Kluge, Reuters reported.


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