Why are Hispanic populations more vulnerable to COVID-19? Could be genetics, Fresno doctor says

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ABC30 – Fresno:

A Fresno doctor is part of a nationwide study looking at the role of genetics, looking for hints about why the coronavirus is killing certain ethnicities at higher rates.

The coronavirus kills older people and patients with underlying conditions at much higher rates. We know that.

In Fresno County, almost half the people who have died from COVID-19 were 75 or older. And 85% of the victims had an underlying condition like diabetes or high blood pressure.

“Any chronic disease basically takes away from your resilience,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, the county’s interim health officer.

It’s harder to make sense of why 66% of the victims — 44 of the first 67 — are Hispanic, but UCSF Fresno Dr. Marina Roytman is researching one possible explanation in the liver.

“The liver is one of the organs of the immune system,” the hepatologist said. “It may not be very well known, but the liver is very much responsible for keeping us healthy and keeping the germs under control.”

For a lot of patients, COVID-19 won’t do much damage to the liver. But for patients who already have compromised liver function because of inflammation or scarring, the disease can wreak havoc.

Dr. Roytman studies non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which has nothing to do with alcohol but a lot to do with genes.

More at ABC-30 Fresno

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