Neanderthal Genes Linked to Severe COVID-19 Risk, New Study Reveals

Neanderthal Genes Could Be a Key Factor in Determining the Severity of COVID-19, According to a Recent Study

A recent study conducted in Bergamo, Italy, has shed light on the potential role of Neanderthal genes in determining the severity of COVID-19 in individuals. The study, carried out by the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, analyzed DNA variations and their possible links to COVID-19, focusing on a sample of nearly 10,000 people in the Bergamo area.

Facts of the News
Individuals carrying the Neanderthal haplotype are twice as likely to develop severe pneumonia from COVID-19
Three genes associated with severe respiratory illness are inherited from Neanderthals
The study was based on a sample of nearly 10,000 people in the Bergamo area

The research identified several genes associated with the development of severe respiratory illness, with three of these genes belonging to a group of DNA variations, or haplotype, inherited from Neanderthals. Individuals carrying this Neanderthal haplotype were found to be twice as likely to develop severe pneumonia from a COVID-19 infection compared to those who did not carry the haplotype. Moreover, they were three times more likely to require hospitalization in intensive care units and to be put on ventilators.

“This study shows there is a particular section of the human genome that is significantly associated with the risk of getting COVID-19 and of developing a severe form of it,” stated Giuseppe Remuzzi, director of the Mario Negri Institute. In Bergamo, 33% of individuals who developed life-threatening forms of COVID-19 carried the Neanderthal haplotype. This haplotype was less prevalent in individuals who experienced mild or no symptoms from a COVID-19 infection.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that Neanderthal genes increase the likelihood of developing severe forms of COVID-19. A previous study published in the journal Nature in September 2020 had also indicated that a genomic segment derived from Neanderthals was associated with more severe COVID-19 outcomes. This segment is carried by around 16% of Europeans and 50% of people in South Asia, regions that witnessed high death tolls from COVID-19.

Haplotype Defined
A haplotype is a set of DNA variations, or polymorphisms, that tend to be inherited together. It can refer to a combination of alleles or to a set of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) found on the same chromosome. Learn more about haplotype on Wikipedia.

What implications does this study have for understanding the severity of COVID-19 in individuals?

The study highlights a significant genetic factor that can influence the severity of COVID-19 in individuals. Understanding the role of Neanderthal genes in COVID-19 can potentially aid in predicting the risk levels for individuals and could guide preventive and treatment strategies in the future.

What is the prevalence of the Neanderthal haplotype in different populations?

The Neanderthal haplotype is present in varying degrees in different populations. It is carried by about 16% of Europeans and 50% of people in South Asia. Interestingly, it is almost completely absent from the African population, which might explain the lower rates of severe COVID-19 cases in many African regions.

How does this research add to the existing knowledge about COVID-19 and genetics?

This research builds on previous studies that have explored the genetic factors influencing COVID-19 severity. It underscores the significant role of a specific section of the human genome, inherited from Neanderthals, in determining the risk of developing severe forms of COVID-19, thus adding a crucial dimension to the understanding of the genetic aspects of the disease.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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