Andaman Tribes At High Risk Of COVID-19, Scientists Call For “High Priority Protection”

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The SARS-CoV-2 virus has affected several ethnic groups around the world. (Representative)

New Delhi:

Recent research has indicated that isolated populations of indigenous communities in India, such as the Onge and Jarawa tribes on the Andaman Islands, are at serious risk from COVID-19. Scientists have recommended that the protection of these tribes be given high priority. Failure to do so could threaten the existence of these indigenous tribes who have lived in isolation for tens of thousands of years.

Infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has affected various ethnic groups around the world. Recent studies suggest that indigenous groups in Brazil have been hit hard by COVID-19.

The death rate among indigenous communities in Brazil was almost double the global rate. Many indigenous communities are on the verge of extinction due to the pandemic.

India is home to several indigenous and smaller communities, including the Andaman Islanders.

Recently, Dr Kumarasamy Thangaraj of CSIR-CCMB, who is currently Director of CDFD, Hyderabad and Professor Gyaneshwer Chaubey of BHU, Varanasi, jointly led the genomic analysis of several Indian populations.

They found that populations that carry similar long (homozygous) DNA segments in their genome are most likely to be more susceptible to COVID-19. The research was published online recently in the journal Genes and Immunity.

Dr Thangaraj, who traced the origin of the Andaman Islanders, said: “We have studied high density genomic data from more than 1,600 individuals from 227 ethnic populations. We have found a high frequency of contiguous lengths of homozygous genes in Onge, Jarawa (Andaman tribes) and a few other populations which are isolated and follow strict inbreeding, which makes them very susceptible to infection with COVID-19 “.

The researchers also found that the Jarawa and Onge populations have a high frequency of ACE2 gene variants. The mutation makes humans more susceptible to Covid.

“There has been some speculation about the effect of COVID-19 among isolated populations. However, for the first time, we have used genomic data to access the risk of COVID-19 on small and isolated populations,” said said Prof. Chaubey, professor of molecular anthropology at BHU, Varanasi.

“The results obtained from this study suggest that we must place a high priority on the protection and utmost care of isolated populations, so as not to lose some of the living treasures of modern human evolution,” said Dr Vinay Kumar Nandicoori, Director, CCMB, Hyderabad.

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