Why are women more protected from COVID-19?

Fewer infected, fewer under hospital care, few deaths. The female population seems to be less hit by COVID-19. Why? It’s still too early to say, but studies from the scientific community give varying hypotheses to explain the cause for the gender imbalance. Let’s begin with the facts, and more particularly those from Italy. The last report on the characteristics of patients who died with positive coronavirus tests (dated April 20th) show that in all age ranges, except for those over 90, deaths are higher among men than among women.

This trend is being found around the world. The initiative Global Health 50/50 Towards Gender Equality inGlobal Health has shown, yes again, that this disease claims more lives among males when pooling the data from various nations worldwide. One possible explanation may have to do with hormones. In women, estrogen could play a protective role by raising the now well-known ACE2 receptor which is used by the virus to enter the cells. It then rapidly diminishes after infection reducing its protective capabilities of the lungs. Estrogen acts as a sort of shield against cardiovascular diseases, which is another risk factor associated with the morality of COVID-19. There are also bad habits. On average, men tend to have a less healthy diet and smoke more than women. Another hypothesis which still needs to be studied concerns genes.

On the X chromosome, nearly one thousand genes (compared to the few hundred found on the male Y chromosome) have been mapped and many of these have been correlated to immune functions. Overall, many immunitary responses do seem to be faster and more effective in women than in men.

HFTHQ 20-05