- Neanderthal genes could be to blame for severe cases of COVID-19, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- Researchers in Italy found that people with Neanderthal gene variants were more likely to be hospitalized.
- The research suggests that the variants are “a major genetic risk factor for severe COVID-19”.
Italian researchers say their study of people infected with COVID-19 shows that people with certain genetic variations attributable to Neanderthal ancestry were much more likely to have severe symptoms requiring hospitalization, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
Writing in a diary iScience, scientists associated with the non-profit organization Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research announced that they examined the DNA of almost 1,200 volunteers in the province of Bergamo, which was particularly hard hit in the first days of the pandemic. They found that the “Neanderthal haplotype,” a set of genetic variants linked to a human ancestor, is “a major genetic risk factor for severe COVID-19.”
In particular, they found that people with the Neanderthal haplotype were twice as likely to develop severe pneumonia, the journal reported, and three times more likely to end up on a ventilator in the intensive care unit.
Other studies have suggested a link between health and Neanderthal DNA. A study published in June in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution suggested a link between Neanderthal DNA and a genetic disorder known as Dupuytren’s disease. And in March, a study published in Nature also found a link between Neanderthal ancestry and an increased risk of an extreme immune response, or cytokine storm, from contracting COVID-19.
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