Not only is the H7N9 flu fatal and spreading, it may also be racist, according to a new study published by the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal. The study showed that a gene which increases the flu’s severity is disproportionately common in people of Chinese ancestry, and that expats who read this with a sigh of relief are dicks.
The study links a gene named “IFITM3” (it’s an acronym, but I’m not even going to try and pretend to understand what the words mean) to an increase in H7N9’s severity, and the gene is apparently “uncommon among Caucasians.” A big shout-out to Michael Woodhead at ChineseMedicalNews.com, who has been able to condense the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal’s study into (ever-so-slightly-more) idiot-proof language:
In a commentary on risk factors for H7N9, Dr Hui notes that recent research has shown that 70% of Chinese patients who had severe influenza infection had the susceptibility gene. The gene is associated with a six-fold higher risk of severe influenza, he notes, and has also been linked to higher influenza mortality. A genetic susceptibility may also explain clusters of the infection in family members.
The study released last year concluded that: “because the risk genotype occurs with such a high frequency [in Chinese people], its effect translates to a large population-attributable risk of 54.3% for severe infection in the Chinese population studied compared with 5.4% in Northern Europeans.”
The H7N9 flu is still haunting China, especially our beloved Shanghai and neighboring provinces, and while this study doesn’t sound like particularly good news for the virus’ victims, it does show that scientists are developing a better understanding about what makes the disease tick. And just to hammer this one in for the northern-European descendent expats: one study does not a law make, and it’s best not to think of yourselves as supermen.