The protein is called OAS1:
“The protective effect was particularly large,” points out Dr. Zhou, “such that we observed a 50% decrease in the odds of very severe COVID-19 per standard deviation increase in OAS1 circulating levels. Interestingly, for non-African peoples, this protective effect is likely inherited from a Neanderthal derived form of OAS1 called p46.”
This form of OAS1 likely emerged in people of European ancestry through interbreeding with Neanderthals tens of thousands of years ago. Evolutionary pressure slowly increased the prevalence of this form of OAS1, such that it is now detectable in more than thirty-percent of people of European descent. It is likely that the form of the protein has served as protection against earlier pandemics.
Because drug development, even in the accelerated environment of pandemic research, takes time it is particularly exciting that molecules which can increase OAS1 activity are currently in pre-clinical development for eventual deployment in clinical trials.Original story from McGill University, “Neanderthal Protein May Reduce the Severity of COVID-19” at Technology Networks
The paper is open access.
Neanderthal man gets smarter and more socially acceptable every time he crosses our radar. At one time, the story would have been: A COVID-like illness wiped him out.
Note: Some sources claim that Neanderthal genes increase COVID-19’s severity. Believe what you want but be nice to the Neanderthals you run into. They’ve put up with enough abuse.