“Women have stronger adaptive immune responses and die less of infectious disease their entire lives, starting from infant mortality,” said Jennifer Beam Dowd, a professor at the University of Oxford

By Ian Horswill


Posted on May 6, 2020

Men are more likely to die of COVID-19 than women and this is now a fact.

In fact more men die of infectious diseases than women and have done so for many years.

“Women have stronger adaptive immune responses and die less of infectious disease their entire lives, starting from infant mortality,” Jennifer Beam Dowd, a professor of demography and population health at the University of Oxford, UK, told FiveThirtyEight.

It is all the differences in male and female hormones and genetics.

COVID-19, men, women, man, woman

Sex hormones appear to play a role determining how well human bodies can fight off disease. In general, estrogens boost the immune system, whereas androgens (like testosterone) and progesterone suppress it.

Hormones have to interact with cells to do their jobs, said Sabra Klein, professor of microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University in the US.

Cells have a “lock” and hormones have the “key” to enter. Every immune cell in your body has these kinds of lock-and-key receptors.

Sex chromosomes also play a role. The X chromosome, for example, has 60 genes associated with immune function. Most biological males are born with one X chromosome. Those immune-boosting genes tend to be expressed more frequently in women, who generally have two X chromosomes, said Klein.

Global Health 50/50 reported that while data on COVID-19 to date provides no clear pattern in terms of who is more likely to become infected with COVID-19, it shows that among confirmed cases, men are consistently dying at a higher rate across countries where data is available.

COVID-19

“Biology is likely playing a role – differences in both innate and adaptive immune responses, contribute to women’s immune systems being generally more responsive to infections, meaning they may be able to tackle this novel virus more effectively,” said Global Health 50/50.

“However, the virus also appears to be exploiting and amplifying existing gender-driven health inequalities. For example, there is some evidence that the presence of pre-existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses may raise the risk of death from COVID-19. Globally rates of heart and lung disease are higher in men, and much of this additional illness is influenced by gender norms that typically encourage men to smoke tobacco and drink alcohol more than women.

“Other gender-based drivers of inequality may include men’s generally lower use of health services, including preventive health services – which might mean that men are further along in their illness before they seek care, for example. Additional social and structural inequalities are also likely to be playing a role – and there is a need for data that takes other stratifiers such as ethnicity, geography, disability, etc, into account.”