If You Have This in Your Blood, You May Be Safe From Severe COVID

A new study reveals that this one surprising thing could be a protective factor against the virus.

While masking, social distancing, and getting vaccinated as soon as possible are all good ways to lower your chances of catching COVID, new research suggests that there's a certain genetic factor that may mitigate your risk of developing more severe COVID symptoms. According to a new study conducted by researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, a particular DNA marker may keep a person safe from a severe case of COVID that merits hospitalization. Read on to discover what the researchers found and how it could affect you. And if you want to protect yourself, know that If You're Layering These Masks, the CDC Says to Stop Immediately.

Neanderthal DNA may be the key to reducing your severe COVID risk.

Gloved scientist hand holding blood tests

In the new study, which will be published in the March 2021 volume of PNAS, researchers discovered that a particular group of Neanderthal genes—specifically those affecting chromosome 12—that still exist in individuals today can help reduce a person's risk of having a case of COVID that necessitates intensive care treatment by 22 percent.

"Despite Neanderthals becoming extinct around 40,000 years ago, their immune system still influences us in both positive and negative ways today," geneticist and study co-author Svante Pääbo, PhD, explained in a statement. And for the latest COVID news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The genetic variation affects how a person's body responds to viral exposure.

A sick woman lying on her sofa and covering her forehead with her hand

The study's authors discovered that the particular genetic variant passed down from the Neanderthal DNA was capable of reducing the severity of COVID through a specific mechanism. This particular genetic factor—which has been identified in three Neanderthals running the gamut from 50,000 years old to 120,000 years old—spurs the production of virus-fighting enzymes within the human body. "It seems that the enzymes encoded by the Neanderthal variant are more efficient, reducing the chance of severe consequences to SARS-CoV-2 infections," said Pääbo. And if you want to stay safe when you're out of the house, beware that The CDC Just Issued a Warning About This Kind of Face Mask.

The genes are more prevalent in certain areas of the world.

venice italy view of the santa maria basilica from the canal

The study's researchers found that the genetic variant is widespread throughout much of the world. "It is present in populations in Eurasia and the Americas at carrier frequencies that often reach and exceed 50 percent," according to the PNAS study.

In Japan, around 30 percent of individuals bear the genetic trait, while the study's researchers found it to be "almost completely absent" in sub-Saharan Africa. And for more on what could keep you safe you from severe COVID, check out This Common Medication Could Slash Your Risk of COVID Death, Study Says.

Underlying conditions could still put you at risk, even if you have the Neanderthal DNA.

Doctor checking patient with diabetes

While the identified Neanderthal DNA variant may offer some protection to those who have it, it won't necessarily cancel out other risk factors for developing severe COVID. "Of course, other factors such as advanced age or underlying conditions such as diabetes have a significant impact on how ill an infected individual may become," explained Pääbo. "But genetic factors also play an important role and some of these have been contributed to present-day people by Neanderthals." And if you've got your vaccine appointment, know that The CDC Is Warning You Not to Do This Right Before You Get Vaccinated.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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