Representational image | nhm.ac.uk
Representational image | nhm.ac.uk
Text Size:

New Delhi: An estimated 50 per cent of the Indian population is less susceptible to severe Covid-19, and it’s probably because Neanderthals and modern humans got naughty with each other tens of thousands of years ago. Or so claims a group of researchers from Japan and Germany. 

According to researchers behind a study published in PNAS last week, nearly half the Indian population has inherited a 75,000-character-long DNA sequence from Neanderthals that is believed to reduce the risk of severe disease due to Covid-19. 

Conducted by researchers from Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) in Japan and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany, the study sought to examine a gene variant that was linked to a 22 per cent reduced risk of severe Covid-19 and ICU admissions in another study conducted in December. It found the variant identical to one found in three different Neanderthal specimens.

This is not the first piece of research to find a link between Neanderthals, a species of ancient humans that became extinct 40,000 years ago, and Covid susceptibility in modern human beings. 

In July last year, a study by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology found that a piece of the human genome that increases the risk of severe illness from Covid-19 was inherited from Neanderthals over 60,000 years ago. An estimated 30 per cent of South Asians are believed to carry this gene sequence. 

“It’s quite amazing that despite Neanderthals becoming extinct around 40,000 years ago, their immune system still influences us in both positive and negative ways today,” Svante Pääbo of OIST said in a statement released with the study. 

Hugo Zeberg, one of the authors of the study, told ThePrint that nearly 50 per cent of Indians carry this DNA sequence. The frequency of this gene variant is 49.5 per cent in Gujaratis, and 48 per cent in the Telugu population, he added.


Also read: Neanderthals were no brutes. They were precise workers capable of caring for the weak


Through thousands of years

Neanderthals evolved in western Eurasia about half a million years ago. However, their genes continue to have a biological impact on the physiology of modern humans, since they mingled with human populations during the last tens of thousands of years of their existence. 

The Neanderthals adapted to environments outside Africa over the hundreds of thousands of years they lived there. During this time, they also likely adapted to infectious diseases.

Interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans — who are believed to trace their roots to Africa — is said to have led to the exposure of each species to novel viruses, and exchange of adaptive gene variants that provided resistance against these viruses.

For example, two gene variants that decrease the susceptibility to Helicobacter pylori — infectious bacteria that cause stomach inflammation and some types of stomach cancer — are believed to have been inherited from Neanderthals. 

The aforementioned July 2020 study said a gene variant in a region on chromosome 3, inherited from the Neanderthals, increased the risk of becoming critically ill upon infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. 

Chromosomes are thread-like structures located inside the nucleus of cells. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Each chromosome is made of protein and a single molecule of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

DNA contains the specific instructions or genetic code that makes each individual unique.

In December, a team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that gene variants located on chromosome 12 reduce the risk that an individual will require intensive care after infection by about 22 per cent. 

The study published in PNAS last week shows that this variant is almost identical to those found in three Neanderthals — a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal from Croatia, and two from southern Siberia, one dating back 70,000 years and the other, 120,000 years.

Chromosome 12 spans almost 134 million DNA building blocks (base pairs) and represents between 4 and 4.5 per cent of the total DNA in cells.

The gene variant sequence mentioned in this paper is about 75,000 base pairs. 

Three genes in the sequence of 75,000 base pairs code for enzymes that are produced upon viral infection and, in turn, activate other enzymes that degrade viral genomes in infected cells. Simply put, three genes help the body kickstart the biological process that attacks the virus when it infects cells.

“It seems that the enzymes encoded by the Neanderthal variant are more efficient, reducing the chance of severe consequences to SARS-CoV-2 infections,” Pääbo said.


Also read: The Neanderthal gift that’s serving us humans well


 

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

VIEW COMMENTS

17 COMMENTS

  1. Why is it that people bring everything back to the race card up untill babalon we were all one all the same color all speaking in the same toung the segrigations occured because God him self was angry with babalonians for building the tower of babalon in attempts to reach the holy kingdom and as punishment for humanities acgions during that time the lord changed our skin tones and mixed up our languages . science states evilution for the changes and gene mutations. Personally as an American i feel race is just another excuse for people to use and abuse others racesksm goes all ways including against every race yet the only race that the government condones racisim tward is white. Just remember the next time you feel hatred or disagree with another God is watching. We are all children of God regardless of skin tone eye color religious belifes if our country is to recover fully from past mistakes and injustices all races all parties within all races must stop the hate the past hurts yes but Irish were slaves Japanes were kept in work camps here in America during WW2 . racism is apauling as a 3 generation american of Italian and krish imigrents that had to speak fluint english have a job a place to live and a sponcer who was legally responsible for the imigrents Untill they are nationalized. There were times in American history that signs were placed out side of businesses that stated “Mics Need Not Apply” mic ks a reacial slear tward irish imigrents that were denyed work and forced to live in diplorable conditions and our country has never made it right ive seen discrimination based on the color of italin and other krish decendents just because our skin tone resembles “white ” we are not “white” as imigrents the KKK has targeted not just Black americans but also imigrents from all countries. An end to all racisim in all forms must end in order for real change to occure. Mind you as an irish imigrents decendent and italin imigrent decendent i have been discriminated against on a regular basis for my disabilities and having service dogs. Im pregnant and Homeless and because of me being of what society deems white we are not considered a priority in housing. My family came to Amerkca in 1919 after the passage of the 19th admendment that gave women the right to vote. My family entered america after slavery and my family is penalized by the actions of british and Im offended when refered to as white because im not the color of a sheet of paper nor are my sons who have nearly olive skin with blond and red hair its offensive the current imigration laws because my grandfathers grand mother was nearly denied a visa to visit because she couldnt speak fluent enough english. My great grandfather spoke and wrote in 7 diffrent languages and was a translator for a news paper in massachusetts. As i see racisim effecting everyone and the behaviors of others behaviors crimes toungs of swards i think to myself covid is punishment by God for the human race violation several of the 10 commandments thy shall not kill thy shall not covent thy neighbors goods or wife. Thy shal not commit adultery yet the world condones murdering unborn children(murder is unjustified killing abortion for any reason other than rape or risk to the mothers life is murder) 2corenthians 1-15 read it it explains the current state of humanity pray repent stop being raciest to all races no matter their skin tone heal each other and stop taring each other down we are only going to loose our country if we do not heal each other equally amongst all races. Each person has free will so we each must make the choice to love our brothers and sisters of humanity we are all one spieces regardless of the genetic varents in melinoma in our skin. We all came from one seed Adam and Eve. Please as children of God we must heal repent make amends with each other forgive but not forget because to forget the injustice would mean all lives that have been lost no matter the color of skin would be in vaine. Do right to others show by example lead by example do say only one race matter no matter the race or who it is. All are Gods Beloved every lkve every creacher every plant matters we are All intertwined in the circle of life we as a spieces would accomplish greater things if we respected each other and worked together as one there are reasons for evedything covid 19 hasnt discriminated against race color creed or economic standing our government failed our people and the poorest people no matter color of skin continue to suffer while democrates and republicans past and present in the. House and sennit dont listen to the people who they were elected to give a voice to. No taxation with out representation was why our founding fathers stood their ground against britian to give us all a chance. Now the persons who are ment to give every person a voice arent listening to their constituants. We now have no representation govt rases taxes with out a vote from the people not ok. Govener baker and his allies that lie about helping the homeless and sink funds into companies that hire slum lords that cause injuries to vonurable people. The number of law suites against pinestreet a homeless asstance company is alarming. Yet baker dosnt look at the harm he dosent care who they hurt or who he hurts through his actions and inactions with the homeless community and December 21 is the longest night vigil for all homeless souls lost each year but theres zero coverage of it and no one cares about the homeless. Remember this Jesus was homeless born in a manger in a barn. All the money in the world cant buy your way into heaven if your tree is empty of frute when you reach judgement day will your deeds allow you to cross that threshold to the purley gates or will your tree be bare of fruits and you be cast to the burning abis humanity has lost the one thing that made us unique from other spieces the Lord gave us the ability of free will not just primitive behaviors. Be greatful for the diversity we have if we leafn from the past heal our brothers and sisters and make true change in each of our own hearts thats how we make America and this world great Unjted we Stand Devided we will fall and we will fall to North Korea or China they see our fighing amoungst ourselves as weakness we must cometogether now before it is too late Kim Jung Un and China will attack america and our military numbers are insufficiant to keep our borders secure the second admendment must be protected people need to be educated on gun safty and proper useage guns dont kill people people kill peopl people use other objects to kill as well knives their own hands any object that can be found from a rock to a fire poker to lead pipe this is the reality the second admendment js ment to help give our country a second line of defence against invasion properly trained and properly maintained and stored weapons wont kill unless the person on the trigger pulls it. In my opinion and im not a felon is persons who have felonies for things other that use of a weapon against another should have the right to have a gun they have the right to protect thekr lives just like anyone else. Those convicted of gun crimes should not have the right to. Additionally guns are used to hunt for food this allows people to eat. Remeber Life Liberty and the persute of happieness. How is housing a right when it is a nessity to survive? Its a basic human right and America is guilty of human rights violations for not ending homelessness our country is no better than any other when rents are 2500 for a one bedroom and ssi benifits for a married couple who are both disables is under 1400 per month. To sistemiclly eradicate the poor is genocide of a social class and congress is reaponsible for this entirely. Poorer countries have done more for their people during covid 19 there is zero excuse for how congress is worried about their own pockets stop thekr income from our tax dollars and see the deficit shink stop these huge payouts to persons no longer in congress they hav no right to continue bleeding our tax dollars to their pockets. Private jets to mexico the representitives of texas should resign imeditly children lost their lives bc they ran away with their tails tucked when things got hard why did they not activate the national guard to help restore water. May God Bless America again and heal our brothers and sister for the pain we have all caused to each other help open the eyes of those blind to reality and all those who have fallen to the injustoces that have. Occured and continue to occure. I pray the Lord our heavenly Father forgives humanity of its sins and that my brothers and sisters repent and live in Your holly way to love each other to help each other to treat each other in the way Jesus treated his disciples with love although he knew he would be betrayed he still showed love i pray that the rich do not do as the king would followed the 10 commandments but would not relinquish his worldly goods to follow our Savior i pray they stop worshiping their money and do good works in Your name Amen. God Bless humanity America and all Lost sould

  2. This article on science reeks of racism however subtle it might seem.
    There clearly are flaws in the article that need to be flossed.
    Clearly, there is no demarcation mentioned with respect to other races.
    Just to give a perspective.
    Do the following question appear racist to you?
    What percentage of a europeans’ gene is similarity to the neanderthal or a chimpanzee in the 3.2 billion base pairs?
    How similar are Sino-Japanese DNA inherit a 75,000-character-long DNA sequence in 3 billion from Simians?
    You get the point, don’t you.

    There’s enough research to be done on the gene sequence for vaccines and less on those like these, which aren’t even worth the ignobel.

  3. Hahaha lol What an anti-infia research Paid media paid article We are Dna of Sanatan,
    All rubbish is from west.

  4. Indian population is diverse and there are genetic variations across Indians geographically speaking. There was a study by BHU scientists on ACE2 expression variation between population s of different regions in India. Can the Print please give an analysis of the BHU study.

  5. Neanderthals existed in Europe, not in South Asia. Is there any study that says South Asians have more Neanderthal genes? It is hard to believe these Neanderthal gene factors for Covid susceptibility protect South Asians more than Europeans. More research from our own Indian scientists is needed if the conclusions from these studies are worth proving or disproving.

    • yes I agree.
      I am actually shock modern scientist still bothers with ANY old racist ideologies. Its wasted time and money. In the end; this research does not stop covid-19; imagine if they spent their time solving real issues instead of boosting old ideologies. There were times i was adamant something was stolen from me…. and the glaring truth was right in-front of my eyes; The item.
      Action is conscious :
      something tells me exhausted scientist skip over the gene that solves every illness (lol) in search of some covid connection; notice this is the 2nd finding from the same research company in a pandemic setting.

  6. Yes I too agree that our poverty and un hygienic conditions provided natural resistance by default and it helps us to protect ourselves natur from the deceases.

  7. All rubbish. all unnecessary research about Indian disease resistance.. it’s actually the large population living in natural not too clean environment that has developed our bodies defensive mechanism.. the large population too helped us with herd immunity instead of locking ourselves up.

    Look at all those poor farmer protesters in New Delhi… thousands upon thousands living in close proximity in cold biting winter.. look at Dharavi where hundreds of thousands live in close quarters.. as per western approach all of them should have got the disease and millions should have perished..

    All this is the hype of the big pharmas and medical field for mega profits.

  8. All yabba dabba gabba doo… all unnecessary research about Indian disease resistance.. it’s actually the large population living in natural not too clean environment that has developed our bodies defensive mechanism.. the large population too helped us with herd immunity instead of locking ourselves up.

    Look at all those poor farmer protesters in New Delhi… thousands upon thousands living in close proximity in cold biting winter.. look at Dharavi where hundreds of thousands live in close quarters.. as per western approach all of them should have got the disease and millions should have perished..

    All this is the hype of the big pharmas and medical field for mega profits.

  9. The print I think every employee of your media were anti india… Thats why you posting such this thing… I you have any guts to be neutral media than Make A DNA test from gulf country… To check their ancestoral breed.

  10. You just ended up confuse your readers. Please proof check your article. In one statement you say that the neanderthal gene makes us more susceptible to severe COVID, which I have read when it came out and was done on Northern Europeans, not Indians as far as I can remember.
    In another statement you say [without differentiating whether the 2 genes are different], that the Neanderthal gene protects 50% Indians from severe COVID.
    In addition, the mortality is very high among Gujaratis and Marathis while both mortality & infection rates have been low among Telugu & Tamil populations.
    So, both the studies do not prove anything.

Comments are closed.