October 5, 2022

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Neanderthal genes: - New genetic research: - Gives Covid more dangerous

Neanderthal genes: – New genetic research: – Gives Covid more dangerous

An ancient human gene from Neanderthals, now at the center of a new research discovery.

In 2020, researchers Hugo Zeberg and Svante Pääbo found that humans genetically inherited a risk factor for COVID-19 from Neanderthals.

greater danger

explode article Published on the website of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Leipzig, Germany.

Hugo Zberg and Svante Pääbo are both researchers at the Max Planck Institute. Zeberg also belongs to Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

Because while some people become seriously ill when infected with corona, others experience only mild symptoms – or no symptoms at all.

It is known that risk factors such as aging and chronic diseases can contribute to an increased risk of developing severe COVID-19. But our genetic heritage also helps determine our susceptibility to disease.

The researchers found that those with this Neanderthal gene were more likely to develop serious illness if they contracted the Covid virus.

‘Amazingly common’

The gene has become more common in the DNA of modern humans since the last Ice Age. According to Seiberg, it became “surprisingly common” to be a genetic variant that we inherited from Neanderthals.

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The researcher thinks this means that the gene had an advantage for the people who carried it.

The high genetic risk factor for covid-19 is so common, that I’m starting to wonder if it’s good for something, like protecting against other infectious diseases, says Zyberg.

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Now they’ve done a new study, where they’ve shown that the same old genetic variant protects you from an entirely different disease.

The gene in question is located in a region on the third chromosome, which consists of many genes. Several genes in this region encode receptors in the human immune system. One of the receptors is CCR5, which HIV uses to infect a patient’s white blood cells.

Reducing the risk of HIV infection

Zberg discovered that people with this risk factor for covid-19 had fewer CCR5 receptors. This led him to launch the hypothesis that these people also have a lower risk of contracting HIV.

He analyzed patient data from three major blood banks, FinnGen, UK Biobank and Michigan Genomic Initiative, and found something surprising:

Those who carry the Neanderthal gene have a 27% lower risk of contracting HIV.

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— This shows how a genetic variant can be both good and bad news: bad news if a person contracts Covid-19, but good news because the gene protects against HIV infection, says Zyberg.

unknown disease

However, HIV did not appear until the 20th century, and the fact that the gene protects against this particular disease cannot explain why this gene spread among humans 10,000 years ago.

The researcher believes that the gene may have evolved in defense of another unknown disease that appeared at some point in prehistoric times:

We now know that the risk variant of covid-19 provides protection against HIV. Zberg concludes that it may have been protection from an entirely different disease that has led to the increased incidence of the gene since the last Ice Age.

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