Males account for roughly 58% of deaths in the U.S.
A West Virginia University immunologist said men are more likely to have complications from COVID-19, or die from the virus.
“Women tend to mount stronger immune responses to infectious agents than men,” said Jennifer Franko, who also is a professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology.
“In the context of infectious disease, this is an advantage,” Franko said. “Most robust immune responses lead to pathogen clearance and fewer signs and symptoms. This is true of a variety of different types of infections, including viral, bacterial and parasitic infections.”
Statistics from the Brookings Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank, show more males than females internationally die from the virus than females as well. This includes The Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, China and Canada. In the U.S., men account for roughly 58% of all COVID-19 deaths, based on May statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
“Scientists are also interested in determining if the strong male bias of the result of male patients possessing more underlying conditions that may amplify their risk, for example hypertension or heart disease,” she said. “We also don’t know if differences in ACE-2 receptor expression, the receptor required for viral entry, may contribute to differences in viral load between males and females.”
But both men and women are equally susceptible to catching the virus, she added.
Franko, who studies sex differences in immune responses, said many factors contribute to sex-linked immunological differences including variations in sex hormones and genetics. Females have two copies of the X chromosome, while males have one.
The trend of males being more susceptible to complications to the coronavirus is not new. Similar trends were seen in previous coronavirus outbreaks including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012, she said.
“One downside to the more active female immune system is that females tend to suffer from more autoimmune and inflammatory diseases than males,” she said. “While several factors may contribute to these differences, sex hormones, genetics and environmental factors seem to play important roles. For example, female sex hormones, such as estrogen, are known to have immune-stimulating effects and the possession of two X chromosomes in females has been linked to increased immune activation.”