No, African blood and black skin don’t ‘resist’ new coronavirus

“Chinese doctors confirmed African blood genetic composition resist coronavirus after student cured,” reads the headline of 14 February 2020 article on the site Af.feednews.com.

“Senou is a young Cameroonian student in China recently infected with Coronavirus he was released from the hospital this morning cured of the virus. Doctors seeking for a cure to treat the dreadful virus were amazed to see Senou still alive and fit,” the article says.

“The Chinese doctors confirmed that Senou stayed alive because of his blood genetic composition which is mainly found in the genetic composition of Subsaharan Africans.”

It adds: “Chinese doctors also said that he remained alive because he has black skin, the antibodies of a black are 3 times stronger, powerful and resistant compared to that of white.”

The article has been shared on Facebook.

But has it been confirmed that the “blood genetic composition” of Africans, and black skin, can “resist” coronavirus?

Understanding the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases. An outbreak of a new strain, technically known as 2019-nCoV and now named Covid-19, was identified in Wuhan, China in late December 2019.

According to the World Health Organization’s most recent update on the outbreak, for 17 February 2020, the virus has claimed 1,772 lives in China. Three more deaths – one each in the Philippines, Japan and France – have been recorded outside China.

There have been 71,429 confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection across the world, most of them in China.

One confirmed case of Covid-19 in Egypt is the only incidence of the disease in Africa so far.

Genetic diversity in Africa

Decades of research has found that Africans are the most genetically diverse people on earth.

The genetic diversity of people from other continents is just “a subset of the diversity within Africa”, say researchers who have built Africa’s biggest genome library.

This means Africans have no single “blood genetic composition” that can “resist” the Covid-19 coronavirus.

No evidence

To be sure, we asked Omolade Awodu, a professor of haematology at the school of medicine at Nigeria’s University of Benin, whether African blood and black skin made people resistant to coronavirus.

“This is a  new virus and very little is known about it,” she said. “However, I have not come across any research that confirms the claim that African blood composition or black skin resist coronavirus.”

The World Health Organization publishes daily situation reports on the Covid-19 outbreak. These give statistics of cases and deaths, and a run-down on new developments such as promising leads in the search for a vaccine or cure.

None of these reports mention that African blood, or black skin, make people immune to the disease. – Motunrayo Joel


 

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