DesPardes + PKonweb

DNA Inherited From Neanderthals May Increase Risk of Covid-19

The variant is now common in Bangladesh, where 63 percent of people carry at least one copy. Across all of South Asia, almost one-third of people have inherited the segment

A stretch of six genes (DNA) linked to Covid-19 was passed down from Neanderthals 60,000 years ago, says a new study cited by the New York Times this 4th of July weekend.

It identified a gene cluster on chromosome 3 as a risk locus for respiratory failure in SARS-CoV-2.

“The major genetic risk factor for severe COVID-19 is inherited from Neandertals”, says the study.

The risk conferred by a genomic segment inherited from Neanderthals occurs at a frequency of ~30% in South Asia and ~8% in Europe, says the report.

The variant is now common in Bangladesh, where 63 percent of people carry at least one copy. Across all of South Asia, almost one-third of people have inherited the segment.

Does this mean that besides Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Indians, and Afghanis and others in the region could be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as they carry the genomic segment inherited from Neandertals more than others.

Interesting research, says a South Asian expat.

Scientists don’t yet know why this particular segment increases the risk of severe illness from the coronavirus.

“I am curious–if this is a major risk factor, why the number of deaths in Bangladesh is comparatively low? (According to the paper, Bangladesh has the highest % of people with this risk factor),” says a comment.

  1. Bangladesh has approximately half the population of the USA (fact)
  2. ~130,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the USA. Should we have seen half that, i.e. 65,000 deaths in Bangladesh? (I understand there are other risk factors)
  3. 63% of the people in Bangladesh has this sequence, compared to 4% of the people in the Americas. Why isn’t the death rate 16X in Bangladesh compared to the USA’s rate?

“Even allowing for undercounting, it is nowhere near 65K.”

The new findings posted online on Friday have not yet been published in a scientific journal.