One Genetic Risk Factor for Severe Respiratory Distress from COVID-19 Derives from Neanderthals

Several days ago, Carl Zimmer, wrote a piece on a curious segment of the human genome, spanning 6 genes on Chromosome 3. This segment is unique in that 63% of Bangladeshi’s carry at least one copy, and about 1/3 of of South Asians carry this variant. In Europe, only 8% of people carry this segment, and it is found even less frequently in East Asia (only 4%) and almost absent in Africa. This allele has been introgressed into modern humans approximately 60,000 years ago from Neanderthals. Zimmer covered the work of a yet to be published paper by Svante Pääbo and colleagues on bioRxiv.

This allele has been found to confer with severe illness and respiratory distress from the COVID-19 coronavirus. This is a single introgressed Neandertal-derived haplotype. The team identified carriers of two of these alleles had far worse respiratory distress, but what this segment of 6 genes encodes for and its role in immune response and inflammation is not fully understood. Furthermore, this does not take into affect the impact of life history, environment and socioeconomic factors toward health and deterioration from coronavirus… But it is interesting to see how some modern health issues stem can stem from prehistoric factors.

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