Men with COVID-19 have nearly 3X the odds of needing intensive care and face a significantly higher risk of dying, according to a study in Nature Communications.
The meta-analysis of over 3 million cases from 46 countries from January-June 2020 found that men are 39% more likely to die from the virus, despite having the same risk of infection as women.
With few exceptions, the sex bias is seen worldwide, co-author Kate Webb, of Cape Town University, MedicalXPress reports, citing AFP.
Immune system differences may account for the female advantage, the authors said:
- Women produce more type I interferon proteins, which limit the “cytokine storm” immune response.
- The “female” oestradiol hormone boosts the response of infection-fighting T cells and antibodies—while testosterone suppresses the immune system.
The research highlights the need to include sex as a variable in vaccine research, the authors say.