While this virus is fairly new to us all, we are learning more about it every day. It’s through arming ourselves with information that we can more accurately understand how it will impact us on a personal level. It’s also the primary way for us to learn how to prevent it.
We can learn a lot by looking at the statistical information relating to COVID-19. A study published by Frontiers In Public Health states that both men and women are equally likely to contract the virus. Multiple cases were studied from different sources of data, including:
• 43 hospitalised patients who were treated
• A public data set of the first 37 cases of patients who died from COVID-19, as well as 1 019 patients who survived in China
• As well as data from 524 patients who had SARS, including 139 deaths, from Beijing in early 2003
The findings stated that with men and women evenly matched in age, men were more likely to suffer worse symptoms and death due to COVID-19 (and SARS).
A similar study was done in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland by the Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre (ICNARC). The study found that approximately 70% of critically ill patients who were admitted to intensive care, were male. In addition to this, a higher proportion of men died than women.
Why are men more at risk of aggravated symptoms?
While both men and women are equally at risk to fall ill, why do men suffer worse symptoms and an even higher likelihood of death? We cannot be entirely sure at this point while researchers and scientists unpack all the available data. However, there are a few possibilities that hold some merit:
Some studies are finding that women generally have stronger immune systems than men. Immunologist from the University of Oxford, Philip Goulder, says that this could be due to the fact that women have an additional X chromosome per cell. Women have two and men have one.
According to Goulder:
“A number of critical immune genes are located on the X chromosome, in particular the gene for a protein called TLR7, which detects single-stranded RNA viruses like the coronavirus. As a result, this protein is expressed at twice the dose on many immune cells in females compared to males, and the immune response to coronavirus is therefore amplified in females.”
Usually, one of the X chromosomes becomes inactive in each female cell, but the TLR7 gene escapes this, so women produce more of the protein.
Higher levels of ACE2 in men
Studies have found that ACE2 is a protein that the COVID-19 virus can attach itself to. Where there were high instances of the protein in specific organs, patients experienced higher instances of organ failure of those organs. Circulating ACE2 levels are higher in men than in women, as well as in patients with diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Tobacco smoke seems to cause the cells of the lungs to produce more ACE2. This also suggests that smokers could be more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.
How to prevent falling ill to COVID-19
All of the same preventative measures apply, but if either of the above possible reasons are true, then not smoking will help prevent contracting COVID-19, as will boosting one’s immune system.
• Practice social distancing and stay at home if you can. You will have zero chance of contracting the virus if you stay at home
• Wear masks when out in public
• Use hand sanitisers after touching any public surfaces, such as door handles, shop shelves, groceries, etc.
• Wash your hands regularly, but also after being out in public or after touching any possibly contaminated surfaces
• Exercise regularly to keep your immune system up
• Eat nutrient-dense foods at regular intervals throughout the day in order to remain healthy
• Avoid smoking
If you’d like further information, call the Fedhealth Crisis Control Centre at any time on 0860 111 646 for support, advice, or counselling.
Resources: https://www.frontiersin.org/; https://www.icnarc.org/; https://www.newscientist.com/