Scientists have identified a gene that can possibly provide protection against the new, more severe strain of COVID-19 currently circulating in the United Kingdom. According to a study reported in the medical journal medRxiv, people with a protein called OAS1, which has been passed down to them by the early Neanderthals, are more likely to survive the new strain of COVID-19. The study is awaiting to be reviewed by peers before it can be published on medRxiv.

Neanderthals are a group of extinct homo sapiens, who lived across Euroasia some 40,000 years ago. It is believed that Neandertals went extinct because of competition with modern-day humans, a great change in climate, unknown disease, or a combination of all these factors. People living in the sub-Saharan region are believed to have been carrying the gene and the protective protein OAS1. The protein was lost after present-day Europeans migrated out of Africa, but is believed to have returned through mating with Neanderthals.