Better hygiene and sanitation in the developed countries may be one of the reasons for the high rates of COVID-19 related deaths, a new study by Indian scientists suggests.
It has tried to find possible explanations as to why lower-income countries, with higher population densities and much lower sanitation standards, seem to have recorded much lesser COVID-19-related deaths compared to developed countries, reported The Indian Express.
The study is based on analysis of data until June 29, when more than 5 lakh deaths were reported worldwide over 70 per cent of which were from high-income countries.
Director-General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Shekhar Mande is one of the authors of the study while Bithika Chatterjee of the Pune-based National Centre for Cell Sciences and Rajeeva Laxman Karandikar of Chennai Mathematical Institute are its co-authors.
The study correlated COVID-19 related deaths in several countries with indicators such as GDP, population density, human development index rating, demography, sanitation and hygiene, and prevalence of autoimmune diseases.
Their 'Hygiene hypothesis' says that people in countries with low sanitation standards get exposed to communicable diseases at an early age and develop stronger immunity. This helps them to ward off diseases later in life. This phenomenon is called 'immune training'.
Contrastingly, people in richer countries have better access to healthcare and vaccines, due to which they remain safer from such infectious diseases.
The study also found that there was a stronger correlation of the COVID-19 deaths with demography, sanitation, and prevalence of autoimmune diseases compared to developmental indicators such as GDP or Human Development Index.
Among countries with the highest rates of deaths per million of the population are Belgium, Italy and Spain, where more than 1,200 deaths per million have been recorded till now. The US and the UK have more than 1,000 deaths per million of population.
In contrast, India has seen just about 110 deaths per million, less than half the world average of about 233. Most other South Asian countries, as also in the rest of Asia and Africa, have much lower death rates.
There are exceptions to this. The countries such as Japan, Finland, Norway, Monaco or Australia have also recorded very low death rates. But it is true that a majority of the deaths have occurred in the rich and developed countries, says the study.