Thursday, October 15, 2020

Neanderthal Genes and Covid-19

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Anthropology, Nature of Science

Edward Hessler 

The Guardian has an interesting article on a genetic endowment claiming "that (it) triples the risk of developing severe Covid-19 was passed on from Neanderthals to modern humans...a legacy from more than 50,000 years ago, has left about 16% of Europeans and half of south Asians today carrying those genes."

The paper on which the story is based was published in the British journal Nature.

The science editor of The Guardian, Ian Sample, includes important comments about what the science may show and what it may not.  This perspective is important

Mark Maslin, a Geography professor at University College, London, when asked about the research, "cautioned that the work risked oversimplifying the causes and impact of the pandemic. “Covid-19 is a complex disease, the severity of which has been linked to age, gender, ethnicity, obesity, health, virus load among other things."

Maslin continued, noting that the "paper links genes inherited from Neanderthals with a higher risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation and severe complications. But as Covid-19 spreads around the world it is clear that lots of different populations are being severely affected, many of which do not have any Neanderthal genes.

“We must avoid simplifying the causes and impact of Covid-19, as ultimately a person’s response to the disease is about contact and then the body’s immunity response, which is influenced by many environmental, health and genetic factors.



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