Italian scientists investigate why the coronavirus barely infects the black population

Francesco Castelli, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Brescia, does not do the trick. Since the coronavirus pandemic began to shake this Italian province located in the northern region of Lombardy, the area hardest hit by the disease, people infected with Covid-19 have not stopped coming to the hospital, but the same does not happen with immigrants. Sub-Saharan people living in this industrious area. They are about 12% of the nearly 160,000 foreign residents of Brescia, but there are hardly any cases of coronavirus among the black population.

“We saw that we had very few immigrant patients and almost none of sub-Saharan origin. At first we thought it could be because they have an average age younger than the rest of the population, but this does not entirely explain the low figures. Nor that they had a lower propensity to go to the doctor for cultural reasons, ”Castelli tells EL CORREO. “Our hypothesis is that there are genetic characteristics that make some ethnic groups more resistant to infection with this virus.” The expert conducts a scientific investigation that, according to him, is still in a “very preliminary” stage and that uses both the data from the health system and the records of the City Council to know the country of origin of the citizens, since the clinical documents don’t write it down.

“In Lombardy we have spoken to several fellow epidemiologists and we all have the same impression that the coronavirus is hardly affecting the black population, but it is still early to know if there is any genetic characteristic that explains this fact. At the moment we have observed this situation in hospitals, but we must continue investigating, “says Castelli. This doctor, who has work experience in Latin America, assures that if it were scientifically confirmed that among this group, Covid-19 acts with less aggressiveness, it would not be an extraordinary novelty, since it is already known that infectious diseases can behave differently when they move from one population to another with diverse ethnic characteristics.

Professor María Rita Gismondo, director of the department of clinical microbiology, virology and bioemergencies at the Sacco hospital in Milan, a leading center in the fight against the coronavirus in Italy, confirms that there is “an almost total absence of people of sub-Saharan origin in hospitals from Lombardy due to Covid-19 infection ». Once this fact is confirmed, Gismondo hopes that scientific research will allow us to know if there is any natural resistance among the majority of the black population to this pathogen or if there has been a cross immunity due to some previous infection. “Latin American immigrants yes there are some infected, but it seems that those of sub-Saharan origin are almost excluded,” confirms the expert.

Testing ground

Lombardy is the first territory in which Covid-19 has come into wide contact with this population after emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan, making it the testing ground for how the virus behaves with other ethnic groups. in addition to the Asian and the white. “This does not mean that Africa is saved from the coronavirus,” says Gismondo. “We have to see what is the characteristic that determines the situation that we are observing in Lombardy. And we know that there are cases in Africa, but it is not clear if they are few because it is possible that they will hardly be diagnosed. We need more research and documentation. ” In Italy itself, there has already been at least one coronavirus death in a Cameroonian patient. This is a young man of 30 years who, apparently, had previous pathologies.

Pollution incidence

But this is not the only scientific inquiry. Another line of investigation opened in the country with the most deaths from Covid-19 is the relationship between the pandemic and the level of contamination, particularly high in Bergamo and Brescia, the two provinces with the most infections. “We know that in areas with a lot of air pollution there are more lung infections. It is possible that the bronchi of people who have gone through these situations are now more vulnerable to Covid-19, “says Gismondo.

The number of new infections increases again

The curve of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy does not end down. After four days of reduction in the number of new infected, this Thursday it rose again, so that there are already 80,500 infected, of whom 10,300 have been cured and more than 8,200 have died. Among the dead there are already 41 doctors. Attilio Fontana, the regional president of Lombardy, the most affected area, acknowledged that the data involved a jug of cold water, since 2,500 new infected were counted in this territory. “I’m worried. The numbers unfortunately are not very good. The infected have increased too much with respect to the line of the past days ».

However, according to Civil Protection, the contagion curve would be slowing down and the definitive change in trend could come in the coming days. Italy, in any case, is already on the verge of surpassing the number of infected people in China, the country in which the disease arose but where it is already controlled. The pandemic could cause damage to commerce amounting to 52,000 million euros, according to an estimate by the employers’ association Confcommercio published this Thursday.


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