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This is Scientific American's 60-second Science, I'm Christopher Intagliata.
The risk factors for COVID-19 are many: old age, obesity, heart conditions. But early genetic studies have identified another trait that some people who develop severe COVID-19 seem to share: a cluster of genetic variations on their third chromosome.
And that DNA sequence likely derives from Neandertals, says Hugo Zeberg of the Max Planck Institute.
“It’s quite striking this variant has lingered on for 50,000 years.”
Fifty thousand years ago is the approximate time humans and Neandertals interbred. And over the millennia, these Neandertal variants have become more common in some Homo sapiens populations than others.
For example, 16 percent of people of European descent carry at least one copy of the Neandertal stretch. Half of South Asians do―and nearly two thirds of Bangladeshis.
“And it’s fascinating it is so high―points to the fact that it must have been beneficial in the past. It’s much higher than we expect. And then it’s totally expunged in East Asia and China. So something has happened, driving the frequency up in certain places and removing it totally in other places.”
The details are in the journal Nature.
Zeberg and his colleague write that perhaps the Neandertal DNA happens to boost the risk of developing severe COVID-19―and they point to the fact that in the U.K., people of Bangladeshi descent have twice the risk of dying of COVID-19 than the general population.
这里是科学美国人――60秒科学系列,我是克里斯托弗・英塔利亚塔。
COVID-19 的风险因素有很多:高龄、肥胖、心脏病。但是早期的遗传研究已经确定了一些患有严重COVID-19 的人似乎共有的另一个特征:他们的第三条染色体上的一组遗传变异。
马克斯普朗克研究所的雨果・泽伯格说,该 DNA 序列可能来自尼安德特人。
“令人惊讶的是,这种变体已经存在了 50,000 年。”
五万年前是人类和尼安德特人交配的大致时间。几千年来,这些尼安德特人的变种在一些智人人群中变得比其他人更常见。
例如,16%的欧洲后裔携带至少一个尼安德特人后裔的基因。一半的南亚人和近三分之二的孟加拉人都是如此。
“而且它是如此之高令人着迷――表明它在过去一定是有益的。它比我们预期的要高得多。然后它在东亚和中国完全消失了。所以发生了一些事情,在某些地方提高了频率,而在其他地方完全消除了。”
详细信息发表在《自然》杂志上。
泽伯格和他的同事写道,也许尼安德特人的 DNA 碰巧会增加患严重 COVID-19 的风险――他们指出,在英国,孟加拉裔人死于 COVID-19 的风险是一般人口的两倍。
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