Questions for “Some Neandertal genes may up the risk of severe COVID-19”

Neandertal skull

Interbreeding left people with ancestral fossils — DNA — from Neandertals (Neandertal skull shown). One of those genetic relics may make people more likely to get severely ill when infected with COVID-19.

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To accompany “Some Neandertal genes may up the risk of severe COVID-19


Before Reading:

1. Name four traits of COVID-19. Are all groups of people with the new coronavirus at equal risk of developing those traits?

2. What are at least three diseases in which genetics can play a role in who is vulnerable?

During Reading:

1.  Some people have inherited genetic material that puts them at high risk of serious symptoms if and when they get COVID-19. Where is that genetic material located, according to this story?

2.  Why has Svante Pääbo argued that “Neandertals are not totally extinct”?

3.  What did Hugo Zeberg’s team find that surprised him so much that “I fell off my chair”? What people currently tend to have this genetic inheritance, according to his team’s research?

4.  What are genetic variants and haplotypes? What ancient peoples have been found to carry the COVID-aggravating haplotypes? What ancient people did not?

5.  How scared should you be if you have the haplotype? How safe should you feel if you don’t? Explain why.

After Reading:

1.  How useful is it to know this information about Neandertal DNA and COVID-19? Are doctors likely to use it today to treat infected people? Explain your reasoning.

2.   The story says that most Africans do not have the Neandertal haplotype that ups someone’s COVID-19 risk. Why do you think that is? (Hint: Where did people pick up that DNA?)