Almost one per cent of the world's population carries a genetic mutation that leads to heart problems, while in India the mutation reaches a frequency of 4 per cent, say the researchers.
"The mutation leads to the formation of an abnormal protein," Nature quoted lead researcher Kumarasamy Thangaraj from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India as saying.
"Young people can degrade the abnormal protein and remain healthy, but as they get older it builds up and eventually results in the symptoms we see," he added. The mutation, a deletion of 25 letters of genetic code from the heart protein gene MYBPC3, is virtually restricted to people from the Indian subcontinent.
But there, Caste and Tribe, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and others are all united by this affliction. One in 25 people of Indians carry this mutation. "We think that the mutation arose around 30,000 years ago in India, and has been able to spread because its effects usually develop only after people have had their children. A case of chance genetic drift: simply terribly bad luck for the carriers," said Chris Tyler-Smith from The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, UK.
"The bad news is that many of these mutation carriers have no warning that they are in danger," said Perundurai S. Dhandapany from Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, India, "but the good news is that we now know the impact of this mutation."
People carrying the mutation can be identified at a young age by genetic screening and a healthier lifestyle. "This is a genetic finding of great importance," said Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Well come Trust.
"Heart disease is one of the world's leading killers, but now that researchers have identified this common mutation, carried by one in 25 people of Indian origin, we have hope of reducing the burden that the disease causes. This research should lead to better screening to identify those at risk and may ultimately allow the development of new treatments," he added. The report appears in Nature Genetics.