Neanderthal genes passed down makes some people more prone to COVID-19 infection, a new study proposes

The Neanderthal gene was found highest in Bangladeshi ancestry, with 63 percent of its population carrying at least one copy of the risk variant.


As scientists attempt to find the exact cause of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the world is still waiting for a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Now, a study has surfaced revealing interesting information about the deadly virus.

The research, which is pre-published in biorXiv and awaiting peer review, divulged that a stretch of DNA linked to COVID-19 was transferred from Neanderthals 60,000 years ago, according to a report in the New York Times.

The study conducted by two Swedish geneticists, Svante Paabo and Hugo Zeberg, also said that the chances of South Asians contracting the disease is higher than that of Europeans, reported Daily Mail.

The reason behind this is that more number of people in South Asia have Neanderthal genes when compared to Europeans.

 Neanderthal genes passed down makes some people more prone to COVID-19 infection, a new study proposes

An Homo sapien invasion is among the many theories that is thought to have prompted the extinction of the Neanderthals, some 40,000 years ago. Image: Sciencemag

Ths study's researchers found that the gene in South Asia at a frequency of 30 percent, while only eight percent of Europeans have this variant.

The presence of the gene is highest in Bangladesh as around 63 percent of its population carries at least one copy of the Neanderthal risk variant – called Chromosome 3.

According to Paabo and Zeberg, the genes likely entered humans during cross-breeding with Neanderthals between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago.

“This interbreeding effect that happened 60,000 years ago is still having an impact today,” the newspaper quoted Joshua Akey, a geneticist at Princeton University, as saying. However, Akey was not a part of this new study.

Neanderthals lived alongside humans and they were very similar in appearance and size but were generally stockier and more muscular.


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