INDIAN SIDDIS HAVE AFRICAN GENES, CLAIM CCMB SCIENTISTS

Hyderabad, July.,8(NSS): The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) Director, Dr Ch. Mohan Rao, has said that they have found that the people of Siddi community scattered in Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have African genes.

            Disclosing this to media persons here on Friday, Dr Mohan Rao claimed that the Siddis are mainly found in three States in the country — Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The Siddis have typical African features like dark skin, curly hair, broad nose. He said that historically speaking, the Siddis have been brought by Portuguese traders during the 17 and 19 centuries and sold them to Nawabs and Sultans in India to serve as soldiers and slaves.

Dr Mohan Rao said that they have screened the people of Siddi community from Junagarh district of Gujarat and Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka with hundreds of thousands of genetic markers. They selected three different sets of markers — Y chromosome markers which are paternally inherited, mitochondrial DNA markers maternally inherited and the autosomal markers inherited from both the parents. Along with Siddis, they have also analyzed six populations inhabited in the close vicinity of Siddis, he explained.

The Group Leader of research team, Dr Thangaraj, said that they have used a statistical tool to analyze the genetic data. Their analysis revealed that the Siddi population has a combination of ancestries. They also estimated that the Siddis might have admixed with the neighboring Indian population some 200 years ago. He said that “our genetic finding coincides with the historical record of the arrival of Siddis in India. Additionally, they also observed 10 per cent of the African-specific genetic signatures in Siddis, which gives protection against malaria.

To trace the original parental population of Siddis, he said that they have analyzed the uni-parentally inherited markers. The results of paternally inherited markers traced that the Siddis were related to the sub-Saharan Africans. Among the Sub-Saharan populations, the Siddis were direct descendants of the Bantu-speakers, he added. He also said that they observed the presence of the Indian-specific genetic signature in Siddis, but not vice versa suggesting the uni-directional gene-flow from the Indian populations to the Siddis.

He said that admixture of Siddis with the neighboring population has remarkable medical and social implications. A genetic variant, which originated in Africa about 5,000 years back to protect against malaria has been found only  10 per cent of the Siddi population, he added. “This low frequency is mainly due to their admixture with the neighboring Indian populations, which ultimately makes the Indian Siddis more susceptible to malaria than their African ancestors. Looking into the genomic architecture of Siddis, he said that they found unidirectional gene-flow from the neighboring Indian populations into Siddis which was in agreement with a strict social customs of the Indian society that firmly stands as barrier to the genetic inflow. (NSS)

 

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