Researchers conducted a study in 2003 to compare the severity and mortality of patients with SARS. Their results showed that male patients had a higher risk of developing severe symptoms and dying.
Gender: A Risk Factor
A list of people at risk of developing a severe form of COVID-19 infection was published in mid-March. This category includes people over 70 years of age, patients with cardiovascular disease, diabetics, people with chronic respiratory disease or chronic kidney, and patients with treatable cancers. As the pandemic developed, the question arose as to whether gender played any role.
Initial estimates published in the media in recent weeks by experts and health authorities suggested a gender-specific difference in infection: Men are more likely to be found in people who developed serious symptoms of COVID-19. For example, a newsletter published by the French health agency Santé Publique revealed that on 23 April, 73% of patients in intensive care units were male. Now, a new study published in Frontiers in Public Health notes that men, especially older men or people with underlying diseases are affected more often than women.
While men and women are equally exposed to the virus, scientists point out that this is not the case for the patient mortality rate. “In early January, we found that the number of men who died after COVID-19 infection was higher than the number of women,” said Dr. Jin-Kui Yang, a physician at Tongren Hospital in Beijing, China. Dr. Yang further notes that “ This led to the question; are men more likely to get COVID-19 or die? We found that no one measured the gender differences in the patients, so we started to investigate.”
To this end, the scientific team analyzed several data sets to determine whether there was a difference in the way men and women react to the virus. Data from the group of 43 patients who were treated by the doctors themselves and data from 1056 patients affected by the disease were included. Because similarities between the COVID-19 virus and the 2003 SARS virus, doctors also analyzed data of 524 SARS patients from 2003.
Mortality Rate More Than Twice as High In Men
Their results confirmed that among patients with COVID-19, older people and those with underlying diseases tend to have a severe form of the disease and are more likely to die. In terms of gender, although the number of infected women and men was similar, men tended to develop a more severe form of the disease. “In the data set, the number of men who died of COVID-19 is 2.4 times higher than the number of women. The role of gender in mortality was also observed in patients with SARS. The proportion of men was higher in the group of deceased patients” the Study reports.
Why Such a Big Difference?
Researchers found that ACE-2, the proteins used as a receptor by the virus, are typically higher in men than in women and also in patients with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Although this study is based on a small sample of patients and more research is needed to determine exactly why men are worse off with this disease than women, they claim that this is the first preliminary evidence that gender is indeed a significant risk factor for developing serious disease.
Scientists believe that if this finding is confirmed, it could have significant consequences for patient care. “We recommend additional supportive care and early access to intensive care for older men,” Dr. Yang concluded.