File picture: Fernando Zhiminaicela/Pixabay
File picture: Fernando Zhiminaicela/Pixabay

Why men are more likely to die from Covid-19

By Rudolph Nkgadima Time of article published Apr 23, 2020

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Durban – Men are more likely to die from Covid-19 than women. This is according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Although researchers are still not entirely sure why, there are some clues.

Women, for example, tend to mount a stronger immune response. Researchers think this is in part because most have two X chromosomes, and the X chromosome happens to contain most of the genes related to the immune system and those with two X chromosomes instead of one also have a wider diversity of immune responses.

“The growing observation of increased mortality in men is holding true across China, Italy, Spain. We’re seeing this across very diverse countries and cultures,” said Sabra Klein, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In Italy and China, deaths of men are more than double those of women. In New York City men constitute about 61% of patients who die. While Australia is shaping up to have similar results, it’s mostly men in the 70- to 89-age groups. Previous research revealed that men have lower innate antiviral immune responses to a range of infections including Hepatitis C and HIV. Although Covid-19 specifically has not been studied, studies in mice suggest this may also be true for coronaviruses.

The reasons why women have stronger immune responses aren’t entirely clear but a widely accepted theory is that women’s stronger immune systems confer a survival advantage to their offspring, who imbibe antibodies from mothers’ breast milk that help ward off diseases while the infants’ immune systems are still developing.

“Hormones can also play a role, estrogen has been shown to increase antiviral responses of immune cells. And many genes that regulate the immune system are encoded on the X chromosome (of which men have one, and women have two) so it is possible that some genes involved in the immune response are more active in women than in men,” said Klein. 

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