|Randy the Neanderthal|
Randy, the Neandertal. Randy NEANDERTHAL may be to blame for passing on the gene that caused up to a million people to die from Covid, scientist claims
A single amorous Neanderthal may be to blame for transmitting a genetic quirk to up to a million people who died from Covid.
To date, worldwide, around 6.3 million people have died from the coronavirus which caused the pandemic.
A huge number have lost their lives because they have a relatively common genetic quirk which makes the lungs more susceptible to infection.
Now the expert whose research identified the effect of the genetic difference on the lungs has said it came from just one single 'romantic liaison' between a Neanderthal and a member of our own human species.
Had this one sexual act not happened 60,000 years ago, many lives would have been saved from the deadly virus.
Professor James Davies, associate professor of genomics at Oxford University's Radcliffe Department of Medicine, told Cheltenham Science Festival: 'If you stop and think about it, this comes from a single interspecies relationship and a single child.
|Randi the Neanderthal|
'And if the dinner date between the human and the Neanderthal had gone wrong, we would have had a much better time in Covid, and had hundreds of thousands fewer deaths.'
Asked for a rough estimate of exactly how many people may have died from Covid as a result of the 60,000-year-old sex act, he said: 'It's in the hundreds of thousands to a million.'
The role of the Neanderthals in making humans more susceptible to Covid was first revealed in 2020.
But the one-off 'romantic liaison' behind it was revealed by careful analysis of 'letters' in our genetic code.
But people with the high-risk genetic quirk for Covid have exactly the same 28 differences in the letters of their genetic code.
That makes it almost certain they are all descended from the same two people, rather than the product of lots of Neanderthals having sex with many Homo sapiens.
It's already thought that Neanderthal genes are a cause of more severe symptoms of Covid.
A genetic variation is present in modern-day humans because our ancestors had sex with Neanderthals about 60,000 years ago.
People who have the variation, found on chromosome three, are up to three times more likely to need ventilation if they catch the virus.
Professor Davies told the science festival: 'We think it's a single romantic liaison, and the reason we know that is that it's inherited as this block with 28 single-letter changes, and you can track that all the way back and it has to be a single event.'
Simon Underdown, professor of biological anthropology at Oxford Brookes University, who also addressed the festival audience, said: 'I want you to keep in mind, when we start thinking about the time when Neanderthals and Homo sapiens bumped into each other and went on that dinner date, just how far back in time this was, and 60,000-odd years later, we are seeing the impact of that encounter in the world today in more severe forms of Covid.'
He added: 'The average Neanderthal group size is estimated to be about 20 to 25 individuals, so these are tiny, tiny little groups dotted across a continental scale.'
He described the chances of Neanderthals bumping into each other, let alone Homo sapiens, as 'unlikely', making the sexual encounter that introduced the Covid-related gene into modern humans remarkable.
Once the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens met, they are unlikely to have realised they were different species, so happily interbred.
The genetic variation which some people now have, and came from the Neanderthals, is linked to a gene called LZTFL1 and is believed to act on lung cells.
These cells develop more of an important protein on their surface, which the coronavirus is able to latch on to and spread through the lungs, causing more damage which can be deadly.
The genetic quirk is more common in people of south Asian origin, and could partially explain the high death toll in India during the pandemic.
Professor Davies said: 'If you stop and think about it, this comes from a single interspecies relationship and a single child.
If, indeed, a single cross event resulted in the transmission of this trait from Neandertals to "modern" humans (and think they should be careful extending their finding that far), I suspect it was more likely a case where a modern human tribe either captured a Neandertal girl child and adopted her, or, captured a female Neandertal in a raid, kept her, and adopted the resulting children. Unlike the story being sold above, I suspect that the modern human side to the story was the randy party.
Seems far-fetched. How would this gene be spread so randomly among the current population? Wouldn't it tend to be heavily concentrated in a single geographic area where those descendants would be? Would a Chinese person and a European person likely be related, even distantly?ReplyDelete
And pardon me if I doubt the 6.3 million death statistic. If the way the CDC and NIH kept track is any indication, so long as someone died testing positive, even if hit by a bus, they died "with covid." At the current rate, more people are going to die from the vaccines than died from covid.