PUBLISHED: 14:27, Mon, Nov 2, 2020 | UPDATED: 14:50, Mon, Nov 2, 2020
Scientists have identified a strand of DNA that triples the risk of developing severe COVID-19: a genetic quirk passed on from Neanderthals. Passed on from more than 50,000 years ago, it has left around 16 percent of Europeans and half of south Asians carrying these genes today. It was found after scientists in Sweden and Germany compared the DNA of patients very sick as a result of coronavirus with those from Neanderthals and their mysterious sister group, the Denisovans.
The strip of DNA that makes patients more likely to fully succumb to the worst of COVID-19 matches that collected from Neanderthal in Croatia.
If you have roots from outside of Africa, then roughly two percent of your DNA is Neanderthal.
However, when piecing all these genetic pieces together, more than half of the Neanderthal genome can be found in modern humans - and this differs between people, some carry some pieces, some carry others.
Science news: The new study could shed light and improve understanding of the virus going forward (Image: GETTY)
Ancient history: An artist's impression of a group of Neanderthals (Image: GETTY)
Talking to BBC Science Focus magazine, Dr Hugo Zeberg, author of the study published in the science journal Nature, explained how those with these strands of genetic makeup appear to be more at risk.
Describing the discovery as having made him "fall off his chair" Dr Zeberg said: "Initially we saw it was about a 60 percent increase in risk per copy of the variant.
"You get one copy from your mother and one from your father.
JUST IN: Trump humiliation as US 'on wrong path' despite landslide prediction
Ancient humans: The fragment of a Neanderthal skull kept in Germany (Image: GETTY)