From risk of exposure and biological susceptibility to infection, it appears that pandemics and outbreaks have differential impacts on women and men.
Couple infected with the COVID-19 faced a somewhat surprising course of the disease. The wife was expected to be most at risk because of her history of high blood pressure, diabetes and respiratory illness. Surprisingly, she fully recovered while the husband lost his battle to the virus.
Dr. Tara Narula. “I really expected, kind of, those roles to be swapped.” They were almost sure it would be the other way around.
So are men more susceptible to getting and dying from COVID-19?
Scientists have been trying to understand the effects of the coronavirus on both men and women by conducting a study investigating the role of gender in morbidity and mortality in patients.
According to the clinical classification of severity, men tended to develop more serious cases than women, suffering worse outcomes from the disease.
Also, the number of men was 2.4 times higher in the deceased patients. While men and women had the same susceptibility, men were more prone to dying.
“One of the biggest questions that I have is the extent to which these differences between men and women are being mediated by our hormones versus our genes,” said Sabra Klein, who studies gender differences in immune response to viruses and vaccination at Johns Hopkins.
Researchers believe that this gender factor, as well as higher incidences in men for most of the diseases, could correlate with the presence of the X chromosome, which carries genes linked to immune function. As we all know, women have two X chromosomes, while men only have one.
Dr. Sara Ghandehari is investigating whether the COVID-19 gender gap could be linked to pregnancy-supporting hormones – estrogen, testosterone and progesterone after having observed that pregnant women are prone to have a “mild presentation” of the virus.
The study involves 40 men infected with COVID-19. They will receive a five-day course of progesterone to see if it raises their odds of surviving on par with women.
Ghandehari hopes that progesterone will get to the disease when it’s at a level that there’s not an overwhelming amount of inflammation.
We have to wait for the results.
However, more clinical and basic research regarding gender and other prognostic factors for individualized assessment and treatment is needed in the future.