Study: Isolated Indian populations at greater risk from COVID-19

According to a study by BHU and CSIR-CCMB researchers, some isolated populations in India such as the Jarawa and Onge tribes of the Andaman Islands have a higher risk of COVID-19.
The study was published in Genes and Immunity. It suggests that the government should prioritize protection and care for these groups. This will ensure that we don’t lose any of the living treasures of modern man evolution.

Kumarasamy Thangaraj, from Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR CCMB), Hyderabad and Professor Gyaneshwer Chaubey of Banaras Hindu University – Varanasi led the research team. They noted that SARS-CoV-2 has had a significant impact on various ethnic groups around the globe.

Recent reports have shown that indigenous Brazilian groups were severely affected by the SARS/CoV-2 virus. They had twice as many deaths than other communities.

Researchers also found that many indigenous communities are on the brink of extinction as a result of this pandemic.

They also noted that India has many smaller indigenous communities, including Andaman Islanders who live in isolation.

Researchers from 11 institutions around the globe collaborated to perform a genomic analysis on 227 Indian populations. They found that those with long homozygous segments of their genome are more susceptible to COVID-19.

Homozygous refers to a genetic condition in which an individual inherits the same variants or alleles of a particular gene from both his parents.

“There are some theories about the effects of COVID-19 in isolated populations. However, we have used genomic data for the first-ever time to assess the risk,” said Chaubey (a professor of molecular and anthropology at BHU).

He told PTI that this approach could be used to estimate the risk of a population being exposed to COVID-19.

The research team examined high-density genomic data from over 1600 individuals in 227 populations. They found high frequencies of COVID-19 risk alleles within Jarawa and Andaman Tribes Onge.

Andaman Islanders were the most homozygous (ROH), as well as the longest-running, of all the groups studied.

The authors noted that smaller populations may be more susceptible to drift. They also identified populations with longer homozygous segments.

“Long runs of homozygosity in certain genomic regions could increase susceptibility to COVID-19.” We recommend that this pandemic be managed with extreme care in isolated South Asian populations.”

These islands’ aboriginal tribal communities include the Great Andamanese and Onge Assemblies, Jarawa, Jarawa, Sentinels, and Sentinels.

Chaubey stated that the total census of these aborigins is less than 1000.

The study found that tribal communities live in protected areas, and it is forbidden for the general public to come into contact with them. He said that the study showed that the majority of the cases on the island were from the general population. This is due to the fact they are more at risk from health workers and illegal intruders.

The study also includes researchers from Amrita University, Kerala and Calcutta University (West Bengal), Central Forensic Science Laboratory in Madhya Pradesh, the University of Alabama and Calcutta University.