Author Interviews, COVID -19 Coronavirus, FASEB, Genetic Research / 25.09.2020 Interview with: David Gurwitz, PhD Associate Professor Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry Sackler Faculty of Medicine Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv Israel What is the background for this study? Response: We closely followed the news on COVID-19 epidemiology since it was declared a pandemic, and were puzzled by the low fatality rates reported in nearly all East Asian countries, even that clearly this was in part due to fast response; for example, Taiwan remains the best example for combatting the pandemic. My past research on serpins (serine protease inhibitors) made me wonder if ethnic differences in some of them are in part related to the relatively low COVID-19 morbidities and fatalities, as serine proteases, in particular TMPPRSS2, are strongly implicated in the SARS-CoV-2 respiratory track cell entry and infection. Additionally, serine proteases such as neutrophil elastase are highly implicated in inflammatory tissue damage. Guy Shapira, a graduate student of my colleague Professor Noam Shomron, examined mutation records in different ethnic groups for the entire human serpin gene family. He came up with the findings we report regarding a close correlation between national records of the frequencies of the two mutations PiZ and PiS, underlying alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, in 67 countries on the global scale, and the current COVID-19 fatalities in the same 67 countries.  (more…)