A man wearing a protective face mask walks past an illustration of a virus outside a regional science centre, as the city and surrounding areas face local restrictions in an effort to avoid a local lockdown being forced upon the region, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Oldham, Britain August 3, 2020. REUTERS/Phil Noble/Files
Neanderthal genes linked with severe COVID-19
A group of genes passed down from extinct human cousins is linked with a higher risk for severe COVID-19, researchers say.
When they compared the genetic profiles of about 3,200 hospitalized COVID-19 patients and nearly 900,000 people from the general population, they found that a cluster of genes on chromosome 3 inherited from Neanderthals who lived more than 50,000 years ago is linked with 60% higher odds of needing hospitalization.
People with COVID-19 who inherited this gene cluster are also more likely to need artificial breathing assistance, coauthor Hugo Zeberg of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology said in a news release. The prevalence of these genes varies widely, according to a report published on Wednesday in Nature. In South Asia, roughly 30% of people have them, compared to roughly one in six Europeans.
They are almost non-existent in Africa and East Asia. While the study cannot explain why these particular genes confer a higher risk, the authors conclude, "with respect to the current pandemic, it is clear that gene flow from Neanderthals has tragic consequences." (go.nature.com/36lHwnC) Read more >>