Evolution in the News - January 2021
by Do-While Jones

COVID-19 Attacks Neanderthals

DNA Analysis says Neanderthals have the highest risk of getting COVID-19!

A study in the respected (well, at least it used to be respected) peer-reviewed journal Nature found a connection between the DNA of extinct Neanderthals and the DNA of people most affected by COVID-19.

The index variants of the two studies are in high linkage disequilibrium (r2 > 0.98) in non-African populations (Extended Data Fig 3). We found that the risk alleles of both of these variants are present in a homozygous form in the genome of the Vindija 33.19 Neanderthal, an approximately 50,000-year-old Neanderthal from Croatia in southern Europe. Of the 13 single nucleotides polymorphisms constituting the core haplotype, 11 occur in a homozygous form in the Vindija 33.19 Neanderthal (Fig. 1b). Three of these variants occur in the Altai and Chagyrskaya 8 Neanderthals, both of whom come from the Altai Mountains in southern Siberia and are around 120,000 and about 60,000 years old, respectively (Extended Data Table 1), whereas none of the variants occurs in the Denisovan genome. In the 333.8-kb haplotype, the alleles associated with risk of severe COVID-19 similarly match alleles in the genome of the Vindija 33.19 Neanderthal (Fig. 1b). Thus, the risk haplotype is similar to the corresponding genomic region in the Neanderthal from Croatia and less similar to the Neanderthals from Siberia. 1

We didn’t report it last October because it was just too stupid to be taken seriously. The reason we are reporting it now is because it is all over the Fake News. Here are just a few of their headlines and links:

But then, on December 31, 2020, the Toronto Sun reported,

 “This protective form of OAS1 is present in sub-Saharan Africans but was lost when the ancestors of modern-day Europeans migrated out of Africa. It was then re-introduced into the European population through mating with Neanderthals” who lived more than 40,000 years ago, said coauthor Brent Richards from the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University in Montreal.

If you have Neanderthal ancestors, you might be in great danger—or perhaps protected—from COVID-19! Science is dead. (sigh)

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1 Hugo Zeberg & Svante Pääbo, Nature, 30 September 2020, “The major genetic risk factor for severe COVID-19 is inherited from Neanderthals”, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2818-3