Severe COVID-19 symptoms could be linked to inherited Neanderthal genes, according to researchers in Europe.
Looking to understand the drastic difference of severity in symptoms between those infected, researchers Hugo Zeberg and Svante Paabo began studying the genes of COVID patients experiencing respiratory failure, according to the international journal Nature.
Zeberg and Paabo identified a gene cluster, a haplotype, that most likely originated from Neanderthals. They found half the people in South Asia have this haplotype, while 16% of the European population and almost none of the population in Africa and East Asia possess it. (RELATED: Humans’ Link To Neanderthals May Be Closer Than Ever, Study Says)
In Bangladesh, 63% of the population has this Neanderthal haplotype, according to the study.
People who originated from Bangladesh are two times more likely to die from COVID-19 in the UK, according to a study from Public Health England. (RELATED: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Orders New Restrictions As COVID-19 Cases Surge)
Diabetes, weakened immune systems, severe obesity and older age are some of the risk factors associated with COVID. People ages 85 and older are most at risk for developing serious symptoms. (RELATED: Firefighter’s Union Sues New Jersey Over Handling Of COVID-19)
Paabo, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said the inherited haplotype’s impact on COVID-19 must be researched quickly, according to the AP.
“It is striking that the genetic heritage from the Neanderthals has such tragic consequences during the current pandemic,” Paabo said in a statement.
The Director of the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology at the University of Kiel, Germany, Andre Franke, said this study does not change COVID-19 treatment, according to the AP.