Genes inherited from Neanderthal genomes may be responsible for some cases of severe Covid-19 disease, a team of German researchers reported on Wednesday.
A team of experts on Neanderthal genetics analyzed a DNA sample associated with a part of the most severe cases of Covid-19.
They compared the data to sequences known to have been passed down to Europeans and Asians from Neanderthal ancestors.
The DNA strand is located on chromosome 3, and a team of European researchers found a link between some variations in that sequence with the risk of being increasingly ill with Covid-19.
Svante Paabo and Hugo Zeberg from the max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology formulated:
“Here, we show that the risk is conferred by a genomic segment … that is inherited from Neanderthals and is carried by about 50% of people in South Asia and about 16% of people in Europe today.”
“It turns out that this gene variant was inherited by modern humans from the Neanderthals when they interbred some 60,000 years ago,” Zeberg noted.
“Today, the people who inherited this gene variant are three times more likely to need artificial ventilation if the novel coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 infects them,” he added.
Paabo and Zeberg discovered similar variations in the DNA from a fifty thousand years old Neanderthal skeleton found in Croatia and a few of them in skeletons found in Siberia, too.
Studies revealed that modern humans interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovans (a related species) tens of thousands of years ago.
Studies suggest that 2% of DNA in European and Asian heritage can be traced back to Neanderthals.
The researchers noted that it’s not yet known what feature from the Neanderthal-derived region increases the risk of being severely affected by SARS-CoV-2, other pathogens, and coronaviruses.
“However, with respect to the current pandemic, it is clear that gene flow from Neanderthals has tragic consequences,” Paabo and Zeberg wrote in their study.