UK: In a new study, scientists have identified a gene found in South Asian people, that doubles the risk of lung failure and death from COVID-19. The study was published on Thursday in the Nature Genetics Journal of Oxford University.
The gene, LZTFL1, changes the way lungs respond to the virus and it’s being claimed as the most important genetic risk factor ever identified.
In the study, scientists have found that 60% of South Asian people have this gene while only 15% of people in European countries carry it. This study might actually explain the impact of coronavirus in the Indian subcontinent.
According to the research, this gene blocks a key protective mechanism that prevents the lungs from responding to viral infections. When these cells mix with SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 infection, they turn into less specialized cells and this helps the virus easily attack the body.
Research has also pointed out that vaccination in people who have the LZTFL1 gene can benefit them hugely. Professor Francis Flinter, from Guy’s & St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust UK, said that the difference between disease and death risk across different ethnic groups was previously attributed to socio-economic factors. However, it was clear that this is not a complete explanation and further investigation will be required. Professor Flinter, who was involved in the study, said, the LZTFL1 gene is responsible for respiratory failure due to COVID-19.
Researchers used a combination of artificial intelligence and new molecular technology to spot the gene called LZTFL1.
The research found that the LZTFL1 gene blocks key protective mechanisms of the lungs to a viral infection.
The lungs are not able to work to their full capacity due to which cells become weak and the COVID-19 virus easily attacks the body.
The risky version of the gene is present in about 2% of people from African-Caribbean backgrounds and 1.8% of people of East Asian descent.
Socio-economic factors were also likely to be important in explaining why some communities have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic.
However, the research states complex mix of factors including age in particular contributed to each person’s individual risk.
– DNA INDIA