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New Study: Some Neanderthal DNA may be protective against severe illness from COVID.
With several state governors (Democratic and Republican) lifting their coronavirus pandemic restrictions and mask mandates, President Biden responded by sharply insulting them. He accused them of “Neanderthal thinking.”
Except maybe it wasn’t the insult he intended.
While the media is giving much attention to Biden’s and his administration’s criticism of those governors, none appears to be given to this study published by the National Academy of Sciences just two days ago. Its title: “A genomic region associated with protection against severe COVID-19 is inherited from Neandertals.” Further:
“We show that a haplotype on chromosome 12, which is associated with a ∼22% reduction in relative risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19 when infected by SARS-CoV-2, is inherited from Neandertals.”
Of course, I turned to my 23andMe report and was greeted by this banner.
I can’t ascertain whether my report shows me as possessing the COVID-protective haplotype. But since I seem to possess more Neanderthal DNA than most other 23andMe customers, especially from Europe, my odds seem good. “This haplotype is present at substantial frequencies in all regions of the world outside Africa. The genomic region where this haplotype occurs encodes proteins that are important during infections with RNA viruses.”
It turns out that Neanderthals – often derisively referred to as “cavemen” – picked up some pretty useful DNA modifications for fighting infectious diseases of their day that are proving somewhat helpful today. They also contributed to the evolvement of humans in some other important ways, too.
“Neanderthals lived in nuclear families. Discoveries of elderly or deformed Neanderthal skeletons suggest that they took care of their sick and those who could not care for themselves. Neanderthals typically lived to be about 30 years old, though some lived longer. It is accepted that Neanderthals buried their dead, though whether or not they left carved bone shards as grave goods is debated.
“It is not known if they had language, though the large size and complex nature of their brains (emphasis added) make it a likely possibility.
“Neanderthals used stone tools similar to the ones used by other early humans, including blades and scrapers made from stone flakes. As time went on, they created tools of greater complexity, utilizing materials like bones and antlers. Evan Hadingham of PBS’s NOVA reported that Neanderthals used a type of glue, and later pitch, to attach stone tips to wooden shafts, creating formidable hunting spears.”
I support the decision of governors to ease restrictions, even mask mandates (some states, like Florida and South Dakota, never imposed them). I even appreciate the very progressive Democratic governor of Pennsylvania lifting travel restrictions. Fans are beginning to attend NHL games again. So, I guess that makes me guilty of Neanderthal thinking.
Guilty as charged. You should be so fortunate.Published in