Scientists at the University of Cape Town in South Africa have found that men infected with the coronavirus are three times more likely to need intensive care than women and have an increased risk of death.
The researchers analyzed more than three million confirmed coronavirus cases from 46 countries and 44 U.S. states between Jan. 1 and June 1, 2020. They found that the risk of contracting SARS-Cov-2 was the same for women and men, as “exactly half” of confirmed cases were in male patients. However, men were 39 percent more likely to die from COVID-19.
The researchers cite sex differences in the innate and adaptive immune systems as one risk factor. Women produce more type I interferon proteins, which limit the abnormal immune response known as cytokine storm and play a key role in severe complications. The hormone estradiol also helps fight the virus because it increases the response of T-lymphocytes to kill infected cells and increases antibody production.
However, it is also possible that other diseases that are more common in men, such as hypertension and diabetes, increase the risk of death.