COVID-19 AND NEANDERTHAL GENOMES
Recent study shows that Some genes inherited from Neanderthals help defy the virus, others carry a risk of getting critically ill
MORE ABOUT NEWS BASICS
Viruses can only survive and multiply in host cells. Therefore, studying SARS-CoV-2 virus will require studying the host. As the viral genome takes the help of host machinery, understanding the host genome is paramount to studying both susceptibility and protection against the virus in a given population.
Modern day humans share a stretch of 50,000 nucleotides (nucleotides are the basic building blocks of DNA) in chromosome 3 with Neanderthals. About 50% of South Asians carry the region in chromosome 3 from Neanderthal genomes, the same region that makes us more prone to getting severely sick with the virus.
A part of host chromosome 12, previously shown to protect against the virus, also was inherited from Neanderthal genomes. Nearly 30% of South Asians bear the chromosome 12 region.
Importance – Viruses can only survive and multiply in host cells. Therefore, understanding the host genome is paramount to studying both susceptibility and protection against the virus in a given population.
o While specific genes from Neanderthals are working against the virus and protecting us from getting a severe disease, others are associated with an increased risk of getting critically ill. This push and pull effect may be one of the intriguing facts about how the selection of genes happens during evolution.
MORE ABOUT NEANDERTHAL
o Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) is member of a group of archaic humans
who emerged at least 2,00,000 years ago during the Pleistocene Epoch (about 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago) and were replaced or assimilated by early modern human populations (Homo sapiens) between 35,000 and perhaps 24,000 years ago.
Stages of Evolution of Human:
o Homo habilis
o Homo erectus
o Homo sapiens
Homo sapiens neanderthalensis
Homo sapiens sapiens
UPSC PRELIM QUESTION 2019
The word ‘Denisovan’ is sometimes mentioned in media in reference to
(a) fossil of a kind of dinosaurs
(b) an early human species
(c) a cave system found in North-East India
(d) a geological period in the history of Indian subcontinent