But early genetic studies have identified another trait that some people who develop severe COVID-19 seem to share: a cluster of genetic variations on their third chromosome. And that DNA sequence likely derives from Neandertals, says Hugo Zeberg of the Max Planck Institute. For example, 16 percent of people of European descent carry at least one copy of the Neandertal stretch. [Hugo Zeberg and Svante Pääbo, The major genetic risk factor for severe COVID- 19 is inherited from Neanderthals]Zeberg and his colleague write that perhaps the Neandertal DNA happens to boost the risk of developing severe COVID-19—and they point to the fact that in the U.K., people of Bangladeshi descent have twice the risk of dying of COVID-19 than the general population. And as both epidemiologists pointed out, it’s worth remembering that you can only develop severe COVID-19 if you’re exposed to the virus in the first place.