Mbabane: More men are dying from COVID-19 worldwide than women, and the potential reasons run the gamut from biology to bad habits.
A study published on May by Frontiers, a leading open access publishers of peer scientific journals covering more than 600 academic disciplines reported that men and women were equally likely to contract the novel coronavirus.
However, the researchers also reported that men are significantly more likely to suffer severe effects of the disease.
In January, one of the first publications of those infected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wuhan, China, reported that three out of every four hospitalized patients were male.
Data from around the world have since confirmed that men face a greater risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 than women.
In Eswatini, already we have recorded three deaths, all but men. The first death was reported on the 15th of April followed by another one on the 5th of May and lastly on the 29th May 2020.
The Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi in her interviews and statement issued to the media warned that people with underlying sickness should stay at home. The Minister of Health was basing this observation on statistics from WHO and other scientist around the world which shows that the virus is more deadly on people with other sickness.
Now, scientists in the United States of America are investigating how the virus does its deadly work have zeroed in on a possible reason. The study reveals Androgens – male hormones such as testosterone-appear to boost the virus’ ability to get inside cells.
A constellation of emerging data supports this idea, including COVID-19 outcomes in men with prostate cancer and lab studies of how androgens regulate key genes. In Eswatini, despite three recorded death in COVID 19, some men still survive this disease. The country has to date almost have 294 cases where on 194 has recovered 3 death and 97 cases are still active.
In other countries like Spain, an observation suggests that a disproportionate number of men with male pattern baldness—which is linked to a powerful androgen end up in hospitals with COVID-19. Researchers are rushing to test already approved drugs that block androgens’ effects, deploying them early in infection in hopes of slowing the virus and buying time for the immune system to beat it back.
“Everybody is chasing a link between androgens … and the outcome of COVID-19,” says a Doctor who didn’t want to be named.
Epidemiological data from around the world have confirmed the early reports of male vulnerability. In Lombardy in Italy, for example, men comprised 82 percent of 1591 patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) from 20 February to 18 March, according to a JAMA paper. And male mortality exceeded that of women in every adult age group in another JAMA study of 5700 New York City patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
Now, researchers are on the trail of a mechanism for this male bias—an effort led by prostate cancer researchers, who have a deep acquaintance with androgens.
More circumstantial evidence comes from stem cell biologist Faranak Fattahi, of UC San Francisco. Her team found a strong link between a measure of active androgens in the blood and the severity of COVID-19 disease in data from several hundred male patients in the UK Biobank; they did not find this effect in women.
Women are being included in the trial, she adds, because they have androgens, although at lower levels than men, and because estrogens have been shown to help heal acute lung injury. Bicalutamide raises estrogen levels as well as suppressing androgen activity.
Marshall says of the emerging wave of trials: “All these trial ideas have been team science at its best and probably at it’s fastest.”
Although researchers pursuing the androgen link caution that their hypothesis remains just that until it is borne out in lab and clinical studies, they’re optimistic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that 63 percent of deaths related to COVID-19 in Europe have been among men.
A study by the Higher Health Institute of Rome in March found that among Italians hospitalized for the novel coronavirus, 8 percent of men died compared to 5 percent of women.
In New York City, men have been dying of coronavirus at almost twice the rate of women. The city’s health department reported in early April said that 43 COVID-19 deaths for every 100,000 men, compared with 23 deaths for every 100,000 women.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently isn’t reporting COVID-19 deaths by gender, but experts see no reason the trend would differ elsewhere in the country.
Enzymes and immune systems
A study published on May 10 reported that men have higher concentrations of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in their blood than women. Since ACE2 enables the coronavirus to infect healthy cells, this may help to explain why men are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than women, the researchers reported. The immune system may also be a factor.