COVID-19: Influence of Neanderthal genes
The risk of developing COVID-19 is still high. However, most people infected with the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus do not become seriously ill. In some infected people, however, the disease progresses seriously. Researchers are now reporting that Neanderthal genes may influence the severity of COVID-19 disease.
Some people contract COVID-19 much more seriously than others. Neanderthal genes could also be to blame for this, as researchers have now discovered. (Image: Halfpoint / stock.adobe.com)
Neanderthals may have died around 30,000 years ago, but the genes for the “parent” can still be found in us humans. According to experts, genetic inheritance influences the risks of many diseases. And according to the latest research, it can impact the severity of a COVID-19 disease. According to researchers, the risk of a severe form of the disease in people with a certain variant of the Neanderthal gene is up to three times higher.
Groups of genes analyzed
As the Max Planck Society (MPG) writes in a current press release, some people are much more affected by COVID-19 than others. Some reasons for this, such as old age, are already known, but other as yet unknown factors also play a role.
This summer, a large-scale international study showed that a cluster of genes on chromosome 3 is linked to a higher risk of hospital treatment and mechanical ventilation in COVID-19.
Hugo Zeberg and Svante Pääbo from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig have now analyzed the gene cluster.
Three times the risk
The two scientists found that the DNA sequence in the variant of the gene cluster, which is associated with a higher risk of a severe course of COVID-19, is very similar to the DNA sequences of a human from Neanderthals from about 50,000 years ago from Croatia and Neanderthals comes from.
“It turns out that modern humans inherited this variant of the gene from the Neanderthals when they mixed around 60,000 years ago,” says Zeberg. “The likelihood that people who have inherited this variant of the gene will need to be artificially ventilated if they are infected with the novel Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus is about three times higher.”
The risk variant differs considerably
The study, which was published in the journal Nature, also shows significant differences in the distribution of this genetic risk variant in different parts of the world.
It is especially common in people in Southeast Asia, where about half of the population has the Neanderthal variant in their genome. In Europe, one in six people have inherited the risky variant, while in Africa and East Asia, researchers say, this hardly happens.
However, the study does not provide an explanation as to why people with this variant of the gene are at higher risk. “It is terrifying that the genetic makeup of Neanderthals has such tragic implications during the current pandemic. Why this is so must now be investigated as quickly as possible, ”says Svante Pääbo, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. (a d)
Author and source information
This text conforms to the requirements of specialized medical literature, medical directives and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.
Max Planck Society (MPG): Neanderthal gene variant increases the risk of severe course of Covid-19, (accessed 03.10.2020), Max Planck Society (MPG) Hugo Zeberg and Svante Pääbo: The major genetic risk factor for COVID- Severe 19 is inherited from the Neanderthals; in: Nature, (published: 30/09/2020), Nature
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.