The genetic inheritance from Neanderthals may raise their risk of developing severe COVID-19 says a new study.A stretch of DNA on human chromosome 3 is associated with increased risk of developing severe disease from coronavirus infection .This risky region comes form genetic heirlooms passed down after humans interbred with Neanderthals more than 50,000 years ago. The genetic variants affected the immune system function and other aspects of human health.
The Neanderthal legacy is still carried by half of people whose ancestors hail from South Asia, particularly Bangladesh and about 16 percent of people in Europe today.
The stretch on chromosome 3 contains multiple genetic variants that are almost always inherited together, forming a block known as a haplotype. Though it has not led to severe disease the genes in the region might be responsible for increasing susceptibility to the coronavirus.
Although most non-Africans carry some Neanderthal DNA, inheritance of the COVID-19 susceptibility haplotype was patchy. In Bangladesh, the haplotype may have given people an evolutionary advantage in fighting off other pathogens, such as cholera, allowing it to increase in frequency, Zeberg speculates. In East Asia, it might have been an evolutionary disadvantage when dealing with other illnesses, leading to its decline.