Countries like India are not having such a high incidence of mortality compartively. Some argue that the low numbers are because of inadequate testing. But could there be other reasons for the same? Are Indians protected to some extend from the COVID-19 virus? Perhaps most of us had a mild illness and recovered spontaneously.
There were few reports in the Indian Journal of Medical Sciences that one of the factors giving immunity to Indians could be that we are living in a malaria endemic region. The reports say that there is an inverse relation between past malaria exposure and COVID-19 infections.
Does having been exposed to malaria in the past also mean being exposed to viral RNA?
An analysis of published WHO data from 107 countries, comparing malaria incidence (per 1000 population at risk) data (from 2000-2017) and their number of COVID-19 positive cases till 24th March 2020, showed that the incidence rate of malaria and natural number of COVID-19 cases were inversely related at 95% confidence level (P-value < 0.0004; highly statistically significant).
How is this possible?
The answer is quite simple. The malaria parasite Plasmodium vivax carries with it Matryoshka RNA virus 1 (MaRNAV-1). Genomic sequencing shows that it shares a 93.75% identical sequence with that of the surface glycoprotein coding region of COVID-19 virus. This means that many Indians (especially adults) have already been exposed to a significant viral protein associated with malaria. Our immune system is therefore already primed to attack the surface glycoproteins of COVID-19 - basis for pre-existing immunological memory among Indians.