Mortality among men due to a new coronavirus infection is 2.8% versus 1.7% among women.
The coronavirus that has flared up in China is causing concern worldwide. It is known that the disease spared one of the vulnerable groups of the population – children , but at the same time poses a special threat to middle-aged and older people. Especially men.
According to scientists, a number of factors can work against men. Among them are purely biological phenomena, and those that lie in their lifestyle.
This week, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has published the most comprehensive analysis of coronavirus infections so far. The researchers found that even though there are approximately the same number of infected among representatives of both sexes, the mortality rate among men is higher – 2.8% versus 1.7% among women.
The numbers are based on patient records, and the sample may not reflect the magnitude of the outbreak. However, this has been noticed before.
Men suffered more during previous outbreaks of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle Eastern Coronavirus Respiratory Syndrome), which were also caused by coronaviruses. For example, in 2003 in Hong Kong during the outbreak of SARS, there were more cases of infection among women, but the mortality rate among men was 50 percent higher, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
About 32 percent of men infected with MERS died, compared with 25.8 percent of women. Young adult males died more often than females during the 1918 flu epidemic.
When it comes to the immune response to infections, men are the weaker sex. “This is the pattern we have seen with many viral infections of the respiratory tract – in men, the consequences may be worse,” said The New York Times Sabra Klein, a scientist who studies gender differences during viral infections and the vaccine response at the School of Public Health named John Hopkins in Bloomberg. “We saw this in cases with other viruses. Women are better at fighting them,” she added.
Women also have stronger immune responses after vaccination and have powerful memory immune responses that protect adults from the pathogens they had in childhood.
“Women have something stronger in the immune system,” says Dr. Janine Clayton, director of the Office of Women’s Health Research at the National Institutes of Health.
However, women pay a high price for this: they are much more prone to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, in which the immune system attacks the organs and tissues of their own body.
The reasons why women have a stronger immune response are not completely understood, and research is still at an early stage, experts warn.
One hypothesis is that women’s stronger immune systems provide survival benefits for offspring who absorb antibodies from breast milk that help prevent disease while their own immune systems are still developing.
It may also be due to biological factors, including the female sex hormone estrogen, which probably plays a role in immunity, and the fact that women are carriers of two X chromosomes containing immunity-related genes. Men are only one.
Experiments with mice and coronavirus causing SARS found that males were more susceptible to infection than females, with this difference increasing with age. In male mice, SARS developed with weaker viral effects, they showed a lower immune response, and the virus was more slowly excreted from their bodies. According to Dr. Stanley Perlman, a professor of microbiology at the University of Iowa, who was the lead author of the study, male mice had more severe lung damage and died faster.
When researchers blocked estrogen in the infected females or removed their ovaries, the mortality rate increased. However, blocking testosterone in male mice had no effect, indicating that estrogen may play a protective role.
“This is an exaggerated model of what is happening to people,” said Dr. Perlman. “The differences between men and women are subtle – they are more noticeable in mice.”
Smoking and neglect by hand washing
Everyday habits that have sex differences in different cultures can also play a role in how the body overcomes the infection.
For example, China has the largest number of smokers in the world – 316 million people, which is almost a third of smokers in the world and 40% of tobacco users. However, only a little over 2% of Chinese women smoke, compared with more than half of the men.
Also in China, type II diabetes and high blood pressure are more likely to be found in men, and this increases the risk of complications after being infected with coronavirus. The incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is almost twice as high in men in China than in women.
In the United States, women are more likely than men to seek medical attention. As noted, in unpublished studies, Chinese doctors emphasized that patients whose diagnosis was not delivered on time, or those who fell into the hands of doctors with severe pneumonia, were more at risk of dying due to illness.
A study analyzing 4,021 patients with coronavirus infection revealed the importance of early detection of the disease, especially in older men. But men ended up in hospitals with disease symptoms that progressed more.
According to experts, the collection and analysis of data on gender differences in the effects of the virus are important both for scientists who study it and for the general public.
For example, from the onset of an outbreak, healthcare industry representatives have emphasized the importance of proper and thorough hand washing to prevent infection. But some studies have shown that men – even health workers – are less likely to wash their hands or use soap than women, Dr. Klein said.
Recall, the outbreak of the virus began with a seafood and animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan . It causes symptoms similar to the common cold, but quickly affects the lungs and other organs. The pathogen belongs to a large family of coronaviruses. The disease has spread to dozens of countries.
The World Health Organization has officially named the new killer coronavirus from China – COVID-19. In China itself, it used to be called NCP (Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia) , which means pneumonia, which is caused by a new type of coronavirus. The first vaccine for this type of coronavirus will appear no earlier than a year and a half later .
The source of the outbreak of the coronavirus seems to be some kind of animal . At the same time, it is known that the virus can be transmitted from person to person by airborne droplets. There are suspicions that the disease can be transmitted even during the incubation period, when its carrier does not suspect that it is infected.
Following an emergency meeting, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of coronavirus an emergency of international importance. This has become an indirect recognition that it is not possible to contain the spread of the disease and that it is becoming a global problem from a local problem.
Basic recommendations for avoiding coronavirus infection:
- avoid contact with animals;
- Do not eat raw or poorly processed meat;
- avoid contact with people who have signs of the disease;
- wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.
Prepare, don’t panic! What you can do to help keep yourself and your community safe.