DNA Inherited From Neanderthals Increases the Risk of Severe Covid-19

Geneticist Joshua Akey of Princeton University said, "This interbreeding effect that happened 60,000 years ago is still having an impact today."

A new study by a pair of Swedish geneticists Svante Paabo and Hugo Zeberg  has claimed that genes linked to the coronavirus disease were passed on to humans by the Neandarthals who existed 60,000 years ago.

Germany’s Max Planck Institute, Japan’s Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology and Sweden’s Karolinska institute are affiliated with the project.

The study is not yet published in a scientific journal. However, the researchers claim that the gene cluster on chromosome 3, which has been identified as a “risk locus for respiratory failure in SARS-CoV-2” and other severe effects of the virus, is inherited from Neanderthals.

Geneticist Joshua Akey of Princeton University said, “This interbreeding effect that happened 60,000 years ago is still having an impact today.”

According to the study, the genome piece spans six genes on Chromosome 3 and has had a puzzling journey throughout human history. It is now common in some countries such as Bangladesh, wherein 63% of the people carry at least one; and across South Asia where almost one-third of people have inherited the segment.

But elsewhere, the segment is far less common. For instance, only 8% of Europeans carry the gene, and just 4% have it in East Asia. Meanwhile, it is almost not present in Africa.

It is not clear yet what evolutionary pattern created this distribution over the past 60,000 years. Geneticist Hugo Zeberg of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and one of the authors in the study said that it is the $10,000 question that needs to be answered.

According to another study published in Nature, modern Asian and European human genomes are made up of 2–3 per cent Neanderthal DNA. This is the result of inter-breeding that happened thousands of years ago, that study said.

An abstract published on the study said that in the current pandemic, it is clear that gene flow from Neanderthals has tragic consequences. The study has not been published in any scientific journal yet.

Facebook Comments