Indians more prone to HIV-AIDS than others, says study

NEW DELHI: The biggest ever gene mapping exercise of the “people of India” has shown that Indians are more vulnerable to HIV-AIDS than many other population groups around the world. This is because a protective gene marker against HIV-1 is virtually absent in India, making the population more at risk.

Ashish Sinha, for Times of India.

The study also shows that the risk increases as one moves from north to south India. It also says the Indian gene pool is quite varied and the term or description “Indian” is hardly homogenous. It includes several variations across population groups spread across the country’s land mass.

On the vulnerability to HIV-AIDS, the study says, “There is a high-to-low gradient from north to south (India). These results are consistent with the observations by Majumder and Dey in 2001, and the antenatal clinical HIV prevalence survey (2005) that reports a high frequency of HIV in south Indian populations.”

The study, released by science and technology minister Kapil Sibal on Friday, was carried out by more than 150 scientists and researchers from six CSIR laboratories. A part of the genetic landscaping were the Centre for Genomic Applications (Delhi) and a host of anthropologists

Gene study largest since Green Revolution

Perhaps the largest scientific endeavour since ICAR’s Green Revolution effort of 1970s, the mapping covered four main linguistic families of Indians — Austro-Asiatic, Tibeto-Burman, Indo-European and Dravidian. It also encompassed the mostly endogamous (marrying within the larger social group) Indian population defined by distinct religious communities, hierarchical castes and subcastes, and isolated tribal groups.

The study, a part of the Indian Genome variation initiative, has generated information on over 4,000 genetic markers from more than 1,000 biomedically important and pharmacogenetically relevant genes in reference groups. The study reveals a high degree of genetic differentiation among Indian ethnic groups and suggests that “pooling” of endogamous populations without regard to “ethno-linguistic factors” will result in false inferences.

“We note that the people of India are referred as ‘Indian’ in many population genetic studies. The implication of such usage is that the Indian population is genetically homogeneous, which, as the results of our study indicate, is evidently not true. However, we have also shown it is possible to identify large clusters of ethnic groups that have substantial genetic homogeneity,” it says.

The mapping is expected to help in constructing “specific drug response/disease predisposition maps” to aid policy decision making for drug dosage interventions and disease risk management, especially for complex and infectious diseases.

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