Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists have been trying to understand why the severe forms of Covid-19 were expressed in some and not in others, especially between young and old and between men and women. Scientists are currently looking into the role of female sex hormones because they may have an anti-inflammatory and protective function against severe forms of the disease.
Female sex hormones
Recently, researchers showed that the mumps vaccine could protect against Covid-19, which partly explains why children were less affected by the disease. A team of scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) has now discovered that female sex hormones, estrogen, and progesterone, can play a protective role against some of the symptoms of Covid-19.
Research published in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism by Graziano Pinna, an associate professor at UIC, examined not only the special case of pregnant women but also the differences between men and women in the treatment of severe forms of the disease.
He found that female sex hormones, estrogen, and progesterone, but also allopregnanolone, which is derived from the metabolism of progesterone, play an anti-inflammatory role. They also stimulate the production of antibodies, promote the repair of certain respiratory cells, and inhibit the ACE2 receptors, the pathways by which the coronavirus enters the cells. In other words, these hormones can help protect women from certain symptoms.
Are pregnant women better protected?
It was in March, at the beginning of the epidemic, when Professor Pinna became interested in reproductive hormones. His research began after the publication of several reports that showed a correlation between the worsening of Covid-19-related symptoms in pregnant women and a rapid decrease in their estradiol, progesterone, and allopregnanolone levels.
“Hormones that help maintain pregnancy – such as progesterone – are 100 times more concentrated in the third trimester of pregnancy. Estradiol, allopregnanolone, and progesterone all have important anti-inflammatory functions and help to get the immune system going again. This suggests that pregnant women have become symptomatic after the birth of their babies due to the rapid decline of these hormones. The correlation was really impressive,” says the scientist.
Pregnant women are less likely to die from Covid-19 than other women
An observation that is confirmed by the numbers. According to the data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the 38,071 pregnant women infected with Covid-19, 51, or 0.13%, died. Among those who were not pregnant, the rate rises to 2%. “Pregnant women are 15 times less likely to die from Covid-19 than other women,” said Pinna.
These results may also help explain why men experience more severe symptoms and more intensive hospital stays. “This finding in pregnant women provides an important scientific basis not only because women are better protected than men, but also because older people are less protected than younger ones because we know that the older you are, the lower your hormones are,” the lead author of the study concludes.