The genetic coding inherited from this distant cousin of the human species makes these carriers three times more likely to need “mechanical ventilation,” according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

“It is striking that the genetic heritage of Néandertal man has such tragic consequences during the current pandemic,” said one of the co-authors, Svante Paabo, director of genetics at the German Max Planck Institute for Anthropological Evolution.

Researchers have concluded that modern man and Neanderthal man inherited this gene fragment from a common ancestor about half a million years ago, but that it is likely that it entered the human genome through crossbreeding. more recently.

However, they say that this special section of DNA explains only a small percentage of the differences in the severity of the disease in coronavirus patients, Biziday reports.

About 16% of Europeans carry this DNA fragment, but also almost half of the population of South Asia – the highest proportion being recorded in Bangladesh (63%).

The incriminated gene segment is almost missing from the genome of the inhabitants of East Asia and Africa.