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Ethnicity and COVID-19: an urgent public health research priority

As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues advancing globally, reporting of clinical outcomes and risk factors for intensive care unit admission and mortality are emerging. Early Chinese and Italian reports associated increasing age, male sex, smoking, and cardiometabolic comorbidity with adverse outcomes. Striking differences between Chinese and Italian mortality indicate ethnicity might affect disease outcome, but there is little to no data to support or refute this.

Ethnicity is a complex entity composed of genetic make-up, social constructs, cultural identity, and behavioural patterns. Ethnic classification systems have limitations but have been used to explore genetic and other population differences. Individuals from different ethnic backgrounds vary in behaviours, comorbidities, immune profiles, and risk of infection, as exemplified by the increased morbidity and mortality in black and minority ethnic (BME) communities in previous pandemics.


Pareek, M., Bangash, M.N., Pareek, N., Pan, D., Sze, S., Minhas, J.S., Hanif, W. and Khunti, K., 2020. Ethnicity and COVID-19: an urgent public health research priority. The Lancet.

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