The amount of data accumulated since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 continues to grow with deaths from COVID-19 and vaccination rates. Data regarding COVID-19 can relate to many consequences of the virus – including infection rates, death rates, and number of hospitalizations, all of which can vary by state, county, or even race. While it is important to use this information to understand how different communities and regions are affected by the pandemic, experts insist on taking into account systemic factors that affect various populations.
An article by The Guardian talks about a gene that scientists have identified that could be a factor in increasing the risk of death from COVID-19 in certain populations. The gene, called LZTFL1, has been shown to significantly increase the risk of respiratory failure and ultimately death when an individual is exposed to the coronavirus.
The gene was mainly linked to people of South Asian descent – up to 60% of the population – a reason why this population has experienced higher death rates from the virus, according to The Guardian.
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However, there are many factors that explain why a person dies from COVID-19, and not everyone agrees that it is necessarily right to attribute genetics as the sole cause of complications from COVID- 19 and associated deaths.
Ajay Sethi is a professor and researcher of population health sciences in the broad area of ââinfectious diseases at the University of Wisconsin. He said learning about all the factors that contribute to different COVID-19 responses in people is crucial.
“Understanding the genetics of infectious diseases can lead to new therapies and new tools to screen people, which the authors mention in their original research,” Sethi said. “It would be important to better understand who is most at risk for infection or serious illness and who can be protected from these things.”
An article from the CDC talks about potential reasons other than genetics that increase the risk of death from COVID-19 especially in racial minority groups. Lack of access to appropriate health care, living below the poverty line and working in occupations deemed essential during the height of the pandemic are all contributing factors to the increase in COVID cases. -19 and death rates, according to the CDC.
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“We can work to mitigate the systemic factors that lead to an increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, COVID-19 disease and death – and we should also better understand the complex biology of this disease to help the society to better manage the pandemic in the future, âSethi said.
While knowing the genetic factors is important to better understand potential treatments and prevention, it is just as important to tackle the systemic pitfalls in the fight against the pandemic.