Scientists don’t yet know why this particular segment increases the risk of severe illness from the coronavirus. But the new findings, which were posted online Friday and have not yet been published in a scientific journal, show how some clues to modern health stem from ancient history.
“This interbreeding effect that happened 60,000 years ago is still having an impact today,” said Joshua Akey, a geneticist at Princeton University who was not involved in the new study.
This piece of the genome, which spans six genes on chromosome 3, has had a puzzling journey through human history, the study found. The variant is now common in Bangladesh, where 63% of people carry at least one copy. Across all of South Asia, almost one-third of people have inherited the segment.
Elsewhere, however, the segment is far less common. Only 8% of Europeans carry it, and just 4% have it in East Asia. It is almost completely absent in Africa.