Research has not established that Indians have the genes and immunity to fight Covid-19


Only 2 strains from India have been sequenced till date and submitted to public databases. These strains are from 2 patients from Kerala who arrived from Wuhan. Therefore, the claim that the genome of the virus affecting Indians is mutated is unscientific and may mislead Indians to limit social distancing.

A misleading claim about Covid-19 is doing rounds on Whatsapp. A similar claim that the genome of the virus affecting Indians is mutated was published by The New Indian Express as well. Both videos from Whatsapp and youtube channel of New Indian Express claim that “there is variation in mortality and infection rate based upon the genome of the virus. Host immunity is also playing a role.”

The video from The New Indian Express has so far garnered 28,797 views and the youtube video being shared on Whatsapp has 4,440,287 views March 31st, 2020. Both videos have the same argument that a mutated Covid-19 strain will protect Indians from the virus and also Indians have good immunity to protect themselves from this strain.

The audio interview from The New Indian Express said: “in a chat with The New Indian Express Editor GS Vasu, internationally-renowned medical expert Dr. D Nageshwar Reddy has good news to share”.

Dr. Reddy is a Hyderabad-based gastroenterologist who currently serves as the Chairman of the Asian Institute of Gastroenterology.

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Many known virologists and epidemiologists have retaliated to this piece of news. A Twitter user Arindam Basu, who is a professor of epidemiology at the University of Canterbury tweeted saying “India’s pattern of spread is not dissimilar from the rest of the world, neither is there any major difference in the mortality either”.


Why this news gained momentum

On keyword search and after sifting through research papers, we found a study on which the Whatsapp video is based and the argument is being circulated as a gospel of truth. The study which aims to understand the variations that are occurring with the geographical area has analyzed Indian, Italian, USA, Nepal SARS-CoV2 genomes compared with the Wuhan SARS-CoV2 genome.

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However, the study is not yet peer-reviewed. The information which doesn’t support the above arguments is the fact that only 2 strains from India have been sequenced till date and submitted to public databases. Strains from 2 patients from Kerala (who arrived from Wuhan) were sequenced in late January and submitted.

Executive Director at India’s leading scientific institute, Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, Dr. Gagandeep Kang verified this by tweeting, “This is appalling & misleading (unless I missed something). The 2 [two]*shared* Indian sequences are from 2 Wuhan returnees end-Jan. They are near identical to sequenced strains from Wuhan. Nothing special here, move on. Trust the right scientists”.

This was in reference to the New Indian Express article, below is the screenshot of her tweet:


The claim that Covid-19 strain in India is mutated and Indians have higher immunity to fight the virus has not yet been proved and is not backed up by a scientific paper studying varied genome sequences.  Different genome sequences should be studied to be able to understand whether or not Indians are relatively less affected compared to the rest of the world.