HONG KONG Jan 19 Scientists have identified a
mutant gene which appears to increase the risk of heart failure
in South Asians, putting one percent of the world's population
In an article published in Nature Genetics, the scientists
from India, Britain and the United States said 4 percent of
people of South Asian descent carry the mutation and they would
have a lifelong predisposition to heart failure.
This means 60 million people are at risk of heart disease
due to this mutation, or one percent of the world population.
"Now that the defect has been identified, there is a new
glimmer of hope. It could be detected very early during
pregnancy," they said in a statement.
"Carriers of the defect could be identified at a young age
by genetic screening and advised to adopt a healthier
"Eventually, new drugs could be developed to ... postpone
the onset of symptoms," they wrote.
Using DNA tests, they compared 800 heart patients in India
with 699 others without the condition and found that the gene
variant - which is linked to cardiomyopathy, or weakness in the
heart muscle - was far more frequent among the cardiac
As cardiomyopathy worsens, the heart becomes weaker and
less able to pump blood through the body. This can lead to
heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms, fluid buildup in the
lungs or legs and infection of the heart lining.
To ascertain how widespread the mutation was, the
researchers screened 6,273 randomly-selected individuals across
35 states in India and found that 4 percent had this defect.
The researchers then extended their study to determine the
spread of this genetic abnormality among the South Asian
They ran DNA tests on 2,085 people from 26 countries and
found that the mutation appeared to be restricted only to
people of South Asian descent living in India, Pakistan, Sri
Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Currently, cardiomyopathy is treated with medication,
pacemakers and defibrillators but they merely relieve symptoms.
Some patients eventually require heart transplants.
(Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Valerie Lee)