Are East Asians resistant to COVID19? Is this virus for the first time in humans?

By Sertse Desta

One can observe that the rate of spread of COVID19 virus in East Asian countries is much lower than the rest of the world, especially the European and US. One might suspect that this is not coincident. We know that there is very low genetic differentiation that ranges only FST (fixation index) between 0.002-0.009 among the East Asians (the Han (Chinese), Korean, Japanese) while the smallest differentiation between European and East Asian people scores FST= 0.0838 goes as high as 0.1059 (Wang et al. 2018). i.e., the genetic variation between the East Asians and Europeans is up to over 50 times the variation among the East Asian Major groups (Han (Chinese), Korean, Japanese). The low rate of spread of COVID 19 in east Asian countries, including where the disease started, perhaps is related to the genetic makeup of the people in these countries apart from the mitigation effort. Yet, the unprecedented efforts by the Chinese to bring down the virus after 80,000 cases should not be overlooked. Likewise, I acknowledge the deployment of advanced and intensive actions by Japanese and Korean to contain the virus. My view here is to bring other possibilities to attention based on what I can observe from the trend of data across regions.

Among the Europeans, we see the low death rate in Germany even though the spread is still nearly the same as the other severely hurt ones such as Italy and Spain. This somehow seems connected to the more advanced and well-structured system of Germany, not only the health care system but also many more, including the tradition of Germans exceptionally complying with rules and regulations.  The spread of the disease in North America, particularly in US, looks like what we see in European hot spot nations.  When it comes to genetics, once again, the vast majority of US citizens are of European origin.  Canada is way at a lower rate than its immediate neighbor and with also uncontrolled high population flow between the two.  Interestingly, the British Colombia province of Canada, where a large number of East Asian population in Canada lives, the virus seems spreading very slow relatively compared to the Quebec and Ontario provinces. However, BC was the province with a large number of cases when the virus entered the country.

Here is just to alert people working on this virus for one of the possibilities. East Asians might be inherently resistant to this disease. They might also acquire immunity in some unrecorded infection by the virus in the past. If the virus exists in the region, be it in batts or other animals, people might be exposed to this virus somewhere in the past, and for some reason, the virus might disappear. i.e., the current infection may not be for the first time in a human. Hence, individuals with inherited-acquired immunity from their ancestress might exist in large numbers in those regions (East Asia). There were also some unverified reports claiming Africans more resistant than Chinese. May be true.  Genetically, Africans are more deviant than European from the Chinese and/or East Asians.  But Africans and East Asians can have a similar incidence of the disease in a long history.  Or maybe due to homeoplastic evolutionary incidence.

I am sorry for my too much speculation. But it might be worthy sometimes to think of all the possibilities.

May almighty God have mercy on us and the entire world! Amen!

ቅዱስ እግዚአብሔር ምህረቱን ለዓለም ሁሉ ይላክ! ኢትዮጵያንና ሕዝቧን ይጠብቅ! አሜን!

Thank you!

Wang Y, Lu D, Chung Y-J, Xu S (2018) Genetic structure, divergence and admixture of Han Chinese, Japanese and Korean populations. Hereditas 155:19



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