Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Genetic diversity, disease prevalence and the coronavirus pandemic

Phiri, Andrew (2020): Genetic diversity, disease prevalence and the coronavirus pandemic.

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The COVID-19 disease outbreak is the deadliest viral pandemic our generation has experienced, and much uncertainty exists over the vulnerability of different populations to the virus since a clinically-approved vaccination does not exist. Our study investigates whether evolutionary processes such as genetic diversity and cultural behaviour norms can explain the differences in COVID-19 virus infections and mortalities observed in different countries. Using a sample of 133 countries we find that populations with higher expected genetic heterozygosity and more historical exposure to infectious diseases are associated with lower COVID-19 infections and mortalities. Further investigations reveal two ‘channels’ of transmission. Firstly, a longer migratory distance from the origins of homo sapiens adversely influences expected heterozygosity, which then increases the populations susceptibility to the COVID_19 virus. Secondly, higher disease prevalence leads to higher collectivism (lower individualism) behaviour, which then reduces the populations susceptibility to COVID_19 infections. Our analysis is robust to the inclusion of additional controls and dummies. Policy implications of our findings are discussed.

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