Modern humans and Neanderthals could be forgiven for having other issues on their minds when they interbred in the stone age. But according to researchers, those ancient couplings laid a grim foundation for deaths around the world today.
Scientists have claimed that a strand of DNA that triples the risk of developing severe Covid-19 was passed on from Neanderthals to modern humans. The genetic endowment, a legacy from more than 50,000 years ago, has left about 16% of Europeans and half of south Asians today carrying these genes.
The origins of the risk genes came to light when scientists in Sweden and Germany compared the DNA of very sick Covid-19 patients with that from Neanderthals and their mysterious sister group, the Denisovans. The stretch of DNA that makes patients more likely to fall seriously ill closely matched that collected from a Neanderthal in Croatia.
The Neanderthal component of African genes being only a small backwash rather that that larger amount – and Denisovan – in European and Asian.
Genes matter, eh?