New UK Biobank research, led by the University of Glasgow, is the latest to corroborate findings that highlight greater risk among South Asian ethnic groups of testing positive with SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19.
These groups, including Indians, were also found at a higher risk of testing positive while attending hospital, suggesting they were also at greater risk of severe disease from the virus. These risks remained largely unchanged even when accounting for?pre-existing health conditions, health-related behaviours (such as smoking) and the likelihood of working for the health service.However, socioeconomic differences seemed to partly but not wholly explain ethnic differences in Covid-19.
It is becoming increasingly clear that some minority ethnic groups have a higher risk of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, which is only partly accounted for by differences in socio-economic conditions and?underlying health conditions, said Dr Vittal Katikireddi,'senior author of the study from the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow.
?Our findings suggest that black and south Asian people experience higher risks of?needing to attend hospital for Covid-19. We?must?now?urgently try and understand what is causing these differences in risk, so that we can address them and improve outcomes for patients, he said.
Socioeconomic deprivation and having no qualifications?were also consistently associated with a higher risk of confirmed infection.
The UK Biobank study, published in? BMC Medicine?, has?linked data between its study participants and SARS-CoV-2 test results held by Public Health England.Among 392,116 Biobank participants in England, 2,658 had been tested for SARS-CoV-2 and 948 tested positive (726 in hospital) between 16 March and 3 May 2020.
Since detailed health information was collected on UK Biobank participants before the pandemic, this allowed the researchers to account for differences (such as smoking and obesity) between ethnic and socioeconomic groups much better than many previous studies.
The study, Ethnic and socioeconomic differences in SARS-CoV-2 infection? uses UK Biobank data and was funded by the?Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office. An urgent response to addressing these elevated risks is required, the study concluded.
Public Health England is conducting a review into the higher risk factors from the deadly virus among certain ethnic groups, such as Indians, the results of which are expected to shed more light on the factors behind the discrepancy.