Why is the Coronavirus Hitting Men Harder than Women?
Women are building stronger immune responses to infection, scientists say, and in far greater numbers smoke in people. The coronavirus that originated in China has spread anxiety and fear throughout the world. But while the novel virus largely spared one vulnerable group kids it seems to pose a particular threat to middle-aged and older adults, especially men.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention conducted the largest study of cases involving coronavirus to date this week. Although men and women were infected in roughly equal numbers, researchers found that the mortality rate among men was 2.8 percent compared to 1.7 percent among women. Men were also disproportionately impacted during outbreaks of SARS and MERS caused by coronaviruses. In Hong Kong in 2003, more women than men were diagnosed with SARS but, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the mortality rate among men was 50 percent higher.
In the current outbreak, scientists say, there may be a number of factors working against men, including some biological ones, and some lifestyle rooted ones. Men are the weaker group when it comes to building an immune response to infections.
"This is a trend we've seen with other viral respiratory tract infections men can have worse results," said Sabra Klein, a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who studies sex differences in viral infections and vaccine responses. This is what we have seen with other viruses. Women better fight them off, "she said. Women also produce stronger immune responses after vaccination and have increased immune responses to memory that protect adults from pathogens to which they were exposed to as children.
"There's something more exuberant about the immune system in females," said Dr Janine Clayton, director of the National Institutes of Health's Office of Research on Women's Health.