The reason that Japan has fared far better than the West when it comes to COVID-19 cases and deaths may come down to simple genetics, according to research by a leading Japanese institute.

Most Japanese have an inherited component of the immune system that can more effectively kill various coronaviruses, including the one that causes COVID-19, scientists with Riken research institute have said, adding that this could be one of the factors behind the low number of cases and deaths in Japan during the pandemic compared with the U.S. and Europe.

Many scientists have speculated there may be an X-factor when it comes to the mysteriously low COVID-19 infection and death rates in Japan and neighboring China, South Korea and Taiwan. Higher rates of mask-wearing, along with genetic and immunological characteristics, have often been cited as possible reasons. Riken's research, if proven, would point to the latter.