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Men are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 

A new study published by Frontiers is the first to investigate how gender may influence the severity of COVID-19 infection. The researchers discovered that while men and women have the same chance of becoming infected by the SARS-Cov-2 virus, men are more than twice as likely to die. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, experts are urgently working to understand why some people are more dangerously impacted by the virus than others. At this point, it is known that older age and pre-existing health complications pose the greatest risk.

The new research suggests that males who are older or suffer from underlying medical conditions like heart disease may require additional precautions and care. 

Around 80 percent of people who contract COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms, and recent studies have shown that as many as 50 percent of these individuals are not even aware they have the disease. 

Identifying the factors that set severe cases of infection apart may help protect high-risk people from serious complications and death. 

Dr. Jin-Kui Yang, a physician at Beijing Tongren Hospital in China, recognized a trend among COVID-19 patients who died.

“Early in January we noticed that the number of men dying from COVID-19 appeared to be higher than the number of women,” said Dr. Yang. “This raised a question: are men more susceptible to getting or dying from COVID-19? We found that no-one had measured gender differences in COVID-19 patients, and so began investigating.”

Dr. Yang and his colleagues analyzed patient records to look for potential differences in how men and women respond to COVID-19. The records included data on 43 patients who the doctors had treated themselves and a public dataset on more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients.

Due to the similarities between the first SARS coronavirus and the novel virus, the doctors also analyzed a dataset of 524 SARS patients from 2003.

The analysis confirmed that the elderly and those with comorbid conditions were more likely to die from COVID-19 infection. The age and the numbers of men and women affected were similar, yet men were more likely to develop a severe infection. 

In the largest COVID-19 dataset, over 70 percent of the patients who died were men, which means that men have nearly 2.5 times the death rate of women. Males were also more prone to serious infections, regardless of their age. 

In the SARS dataset, the researchers identified a similar pattern. This is likely tied to the finding that levels of ACE2, the protein that is exploited by the coronavirus, is often present in higher levels among men, individuals with cardiovascular disease, and diabetes patients.

Further research is needed to determine exactly why men struggle more with COVID-19 than women, but the implications are clear.

“We recommend that additional supportive care and prompt access to the intensive care unit may be necessary for older male patients,” said Dr. Yang.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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