Covid-19: three times the risk of intensive care for men

Men infected with Sars-CoV-2 are three times more likely than women to be admitted to intensive care, and also more likely to die from it, according to a study which questions the biological differences between the two sexes.

A higher mortality for men too

Since the start of the Covid-19 epidemic, experts have noted a greater number of serious cases in men. For more precise information, the authors of this study published on December 9, 2020 in Nature Communications analyzed data from 46 countries and 44 states in the United States from January 1 to June 1, or 3.1 million confirmed cases of Covid-19. According to these data, there is no difference between men and women for contamination, “exactly“half of the confirmed cases are men. On the other hand, the probability for a sick man to be hospitalized in intensive care is almost three times higher (2.84 times) than for a woman, and the probability of dying is also larger (1.39 times). This phenomenon is “global“, with a few exceptions, underlines the study, which explains this situation mainly by biological factors.

Gender, a variable in vaccine development

Based on other studies already published, the authors suggest that women naturally produce more type 1 interferon, a substance that limits the abnormal immune response (“the cytokine storm”) pointed out in the forms serious cases of Covid-19. It also produces more T cells which kill infected cells. The presence in women of the “female” hormone estradiol would also offer greater protection against infection. On the contrary, testosterone would limit the immune response in men, the study says. Beyond this “real biological difference“, the authors also evoke the possibility that the presence of more important co-morbidities in men is taken into account. But they point the finger at the lack of data that could allow the role of these additional factors to be assessed. note, however, that there is no major difference between the two sexes at the global level for two co-morbidities increasing the risk of severe forms of Covid: hypertension and diabetes.

Although more studies are needed, “these data have implications for the clinical management of Covid-19“, estimates the study.”These data could help doctors realize that sex is a real risk factor for severe forms when caring for patients.“Dr Kate Webb of the University of Cape Town in South Africa told AFP, also citing a possible implication for vaccines.”Other vaccines (…) have shown different responses depending on the sexes. Whether this will be the case with the Sars-CoV-2 vaccine remains to be determined but we hope our study highlights the need to include gender as a variable in vaccine research.“, she added.

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