Faulty gene makes South Asians, Britons more susceptible to Covid-19, study finds
The answer as to why the number of Covid-19 infections in the UK and South Asia is so high may lie in the LZTFL1 gene, the Chulabhorn Royal Academy said in a Facebook post on Monday.
“The destructive form of the LZTFL1 gene is found in up to 60 per cent of people of South Asian descent, 15 per cent of people with European ancestry, 2.4 per cent of Africans and 1.8 per cent of East Asians,” the post read. “Racial backgrounds carrying the high-risk version of the gene double the risk of death from Covid-19.
“The Nature Genetics website has published a study on the LZTFL1 gene,” said the post. “Researchers believe the risky version of the gene makes people's lungs more susceptible to coronavirus and derails a key protective mechanism that cells lining the lungs normally employ to defend themselves from Covid-19.”
According to the study, when cells lining the lung interact with coronavirus, one of their defence strategies is to turn into less specialised cells and become less welcoming to the virus. This de-specialisation process reduces the amount of a key protein called ACE-2 on the cell surface, which is key to coronavirus attaching to the cells. But for people with the risky version of the LZTFL1 gene, this process does not work as well, and lung cells are left vulnerable to the virus.
The study concluded that patients with a low expression of the LZTFL1 gene are at lower risk of coronavirus invasion in their lungs, while a higher version of the LZTFL1 gene expression derail cell transformation and make the lungs vulnerable to infection. This gene doubles a person’s risk of death from the disease – worse than coronary heart disease and diabetes – and can also affect people below the age of 60.
The academy also quoted Prof Frances Flinter, emeritus professor of Clinical Genetics at King’s College London, who concluded that it is particularly important to inoculate communities that are at a greater risk of serious Covid-19 infection due to this gene. She said this increased risk can be cancelled out by vaccination.