Researchers have discovered a possible genetic link between Neanderthal DNA and a lower risk of developing a severe case of the coronavirus.
A new study, conducted by Hugo Zeberg and Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, followed recent research that suggested that Neanderthal DNA was actually linked to an increased risk of serious disease.
They found that a certain haplogroup, a population that shares common DNA, was about 22 percent less likely to develop a severe case of COVID-19. Common DNA is believed to have been inherited from Neanderthals.
The haplogroup is common in populations outside of Africa, the study notes, as the Neanderthal evolved outside of the continent.
Neanderthal DNA believed to protect against disease was found on chromosome 12, while DNA discovered in a previous study that researchers theorized increased the chances of serious disease was found on chromosome 3.
The researchers said that Neanderthals and their Asian sister group, the Denisovans, were extinct tens of thousands of years ago, but their genetic impact still lingers today.
“Some of these contributions may reflect adaptations to environments outside of Africa where Neanderthals lived for several hundred thousand years. During this time, it is likely that they have adapted to infectious diseases, which are known to be strong selective factors that can They have, at least in part, differed between sub-Saharan Africa and Eurasia, “they wrote.
The study suggested that Neanderthal DNA that protects against serious diseases may have occurred due to past epidemics that were caused by RNA viruses, a category that includes the coronavirus.