Genetic variants inherited from Neanderthals cause more severe covid-19

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A European study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature identified a genetic segment on chromosome 3 that is inherited from Neanderthals and that exposes its carriers to an increased risk of serious covid-19 disease.

In Europe, for example, 16% of people are carriers of these variants and in South Asia that percentage reaches 50% – in Bangladesh, the authors say, 63% of the population is a carrier. In Africa and East Asia, on the other hand, there are almost no such genetic variants in their respective populations.

The study is by Hugo Zeberg, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and by Svante Pääbo, from the Max Planck Institute for Anthropology of Evolution.

The latter was the one who published the complete neardertal genome in 2010, confirming once and for all that there were even genetic exchanges between those extinct human beings about 35 thousand years ago and the homo sapiens, the modern human species.

It is precisely this ancient genetic heritage that now crosses the pandemic by the new coronavirus with negative effects for its carriers.

Genetic variants on chromosome 3 inherited from Neanderthals thus join the list of other risk factors for SARS-CoV-2 infection, such as age, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, disability of vitamin D or obesity.

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