Last year, researchers at Karolinska Institutet and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany showed that a major genetic risk factor for severe COVID-19 is inherited from Neandertals. Now the same researchers show, in a study published in PNAS, that Neandertals also contributed a protective variant. Half of all people outside Africa carry a Neandertal gene variant that reduces the risk of needing intensive care for COVID-19 by 20 percent.
Some people become seriously ill when infected with SARS-CoV-2 while others get only mild or no symptoms. In addition to risk factors such as advanced age and diabetes, gene variants also make people more or less sensitive to developing severe COVID-19. A major genetic risk factor is located on chromosome 3 and dramatically increases the risk of respiratory failure and even death. Hugo Zeberg and Svante Pääbo at Karolinska Institutet and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology discovered last year that this risk variant is inherited from Neandertals.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Study Paper: