People with Neanderthal DNA may have more severe COVID complications

People with Neanderthal DNA may have more severe COVID complications

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Print this page Email A Friend!


PARIS, France (AFP) - COVID-19 patients with a snippet of Neanderthal DNA that crossed into the human genome some 60,000 years ago run a higher risk of severe complications from the disease, researchers have reported.

People infected with the new coronavirus, for example, who carry the genetic coding bequeathed by our early human cousins are three times more likely to need mechanical ventilation, according to a study published Wednesday in Nature.

There are many reasons why some people with COVID-19 wind up in intensive care and others have only light symptoms, or none at all.

Advanced age, being a man, and pre-existing medical problems can all increase the odds of a serious outcome.

But genetic factors can also play a role, as the new findings make clear.

"It is striking that the genetic heritage from Neanderthals has such tragic consequences during the current pandemic," said co-author Svante Paabo, director of the department of genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Recent research by the COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative revealed that a genetic variant in a particular region of chromosome 3 -- one of 23 chromosomes in the human genome -- is associated with more severe forms of the disease.

That same region was known to harbour genetic code of Neanderthal origins, so Paabo and co-author Hugo Zeberg, also from Max Planck, decided to look for a link with Covid-19.

They found that a Neanderthal individual from southern Europe carried an almost identical genetic segment, which spans some 50,000 so-called base pairs, the primary building blocks of DNA.

Tellingly, two Neanderthals found in southern Siberia, along with a specimen from another early human species that also wandered Eurasia, the Denisovans, did not carry the telltale snippet.

Modern humans and Neanderthals could have inherited the gene fragment from a common ancestor some half-million years ago, but it is far more likely to have entered the homo sapiens gene pool through more recent interbreeding, the researchers concluded.

The potentially dangerous string of Neanderthal DNA is not evenly distributed today across the globe, the study showed.

Some 16 percent of Europeans carry it, and about half the population across South Asia, with the highest proportion -- 63 percent -- found in Bangladesh.

This could help explain why individuals of Bangladeshi descent living in Britain are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as the general population, the authors speculate.

In East Asia and Africa the gene variant is virtually absent.

About two percent of DNA in non-Africans across the globe originate with Neanderthals, earlier studies have shown.

Denisovan remnants are also widespread but more sporadic, comprising less than one percent of the DNA among Asians and Native Americans, and about five percent of aboriginal Australians and the people of Papua New Guinea.


Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaper-login


ADVERTISEMENT




POST A COMMENT

HOUSE RULES

1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy



comments powered by Disqus
ADVERTISEMENT

Poll

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
ADVERTISEMENT