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COVID-19 and ethnicity:has history repeated itself?
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  1. Annastazia E Learoyd1,
  2. Abdel Douiri1,
  3. Nicholas Hart2,3
  1. 1 School of Population Health and Environmental Sciences, King's College London, London, UK
  2. 2 Lane Fox Respiratory Service, Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals NHS Trust, London, UK
  3. 3 Centre for Human and Applied Physiological Sciences, King's College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Annastazia E Learoyd, School of Population Health and Environmental Sciences, King's College London, London SE1 1UL, UK; annastazia.learoyd{at}kcl.ac.uk

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In the year since its discovery, the novel virus SARS-CoV-2 has spread across the world and ignited, in a short pace of time, an entire area of research into its origins, symptoms and outcomes of the resultant disease (COVID-19), possible treatments and contributing risk factors. The speed at which this field has grown has enabled us to more proactively treat individuals with COVID-19 and has brought us to the precipice of mass vaccination against this virus. But, despite being a new field of study led by 21st century scientists, research into COVID-19 has fallen into the same pitfall present in older, more established areas of research—namely, the unconscious biases associated with ethnicity.

In the spring of 2020, the first evidence from the UK was published showing that COVID-19 has a greater impact on black and minority ethnic (BME) populations than white population. Amid calls for further investigation, more and more studies have included ethnicity as a possible predictor for COVID-related outcomes.1 While these studies have demonstrated the greater impact of COVID-19 on these communities, they have re-established, again, the innate biases present within both human society and scientific research. The inclusion of ethnicity as a predictive factor for COVID-19 infection or mortality contains the flawed logic that people of different ethnicities are biological distinct,2 with different genetic factors that may predispose or protect them from a disease such as COVID-19. This concept is not a new one, originating first in 1795 with the description of five different races by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach. Even in this first instant, the described races were not described as genetically distinct but …

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Footnotes

  • Twitter @NickHartThorax

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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