Did you know that people from South Asia, including Filipinos, carry a higher risk version of the protein-coding gene known as Leucine Zipper Transcription Factor Like 1 (LZTFL1)?
Said gene could lead to death because this version predisposes them to developing severe Covid-19, according to initial results of a recent study by scientists from the University of Oxford.
OXFORD, United Kingdom — According to the study’s lead researcher Damien Downes of the Radcliffe Department of Medicine, they found that 60 percent of people with South Asian ancestry are at higher risk of mortality because of LZTFL1.
Researchers used artificial intelligence to study genetic data from hundreds of types of cells throughout the body and through a new 3C (chromosome conformation capture) method called Micro Capture-C, they managed to identify LZTFL1 as the gene that causes an increased risk of respiratory failure.
“We believe LZTFL1 prevents the cells from lining the airways and the lungs from fighting the coronavirus. Surprisingly, as several other genes were suspected, the data showed that LZTFL1, which is relatively an unstudied gene, causes the effect,” Downes revealed.
The study further found that by comparison, LZTFL1 was found only in 15 percent of Europeans and it is also less frequent among those with Afro-Caribbean ancestry at a very low 2 percent.
“Having the higher-risk version of LZTFL1 does not immediately translate to higher Covid-19 death rates but for one, it is not present in all Black and other ethnic minority communities―which still saw high death tolls―and there are other variables to consider, including socioeconomic factors,” Downes added.
Study co-lead James Davies explained that the genetic factor explains why some people become seriously ill after contracting the virus so LZTFL1 can thus be a therapeutic target for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19.
“It shows that the way in which the lung responds to the infection is critical. This is important because most treatments have focused on changing the way in which the immune system reacts to the virus,” Davies said.
India, the largest country in South Asia, suffered a second wave of Covid-19 that placed it as the pandemic’s new epicenter―second only to the United States―earlier this year. In the United Kingdom, the risk of South Asians dying from Covid-19 was found to be about five times higher than white British people, ranging from 1.6 times for Indian women to 4.8 times for Pakistani men. (TRC/Headline PH)