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Weaker immune defenses: Why Covid-19 is more deadly for men

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Why is Covid-19 less deadly for women than for men

A man wearing a breathing mask in the hospital

Covid-19 poses a greater risk to men than to women

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Although it is now known that disease symptoms or medication side effects differ in men and women, it is rarely the focus of studies. But even with Covid-19, there are now clear differences: the male risk factor.

This text first appeared here brigitte.de.

The numbers clearly show this. In the age group from 35 to 59 years was in woman Infection was reported significantly more often, but mortality is higher in men. A total of 1.67 million injuries were reported among women, including 1,808 deaths, and 1.53 million injuries and 4293 deaths in men, according to “Spiegel”. In the 60 to 79 age group, there were 23,430 deaths among men and 12,466 among women.

Corona: Women are infected more often – they do more methodologically important jobs

According to the researchers, the higher rates of infection among women are likely due to social reasons – they are increasingly working in jobs of systemic importance, and therefore they are more likely to contract infections.

And how is the male mortality rate higher now? “It was before that CoronaThe epidemic knows that women build a faster immune response against RNA viruses, to which the SARS-CoV-2 virus belongs,” explains Markus Altfeld of the Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology in Hamburg to Spiegel. He talks about “very original differences between the sexes.” It relates to protecting the fetus from infections during pregnancy and lactation.

Corona infection: Women have a significantly higher immune system than men

Where exactly is the difference now? First of all, women have a very fast immune response due to the so-called type 1 interferon. Among other things, it can prevent the reproduction of viruses in the body. In addition, women also produce faster antibodies on average when infected with RNA viruses, Altfield says. These antibodies also tend to last longer – this also applies after vaccination. A study published in August 2020 shows that women with Covid-19 develop a stronger T-cell response to the virus than women with Covid-19. men. However, the results were not evaluated and clarified down to the last detail.

Instead, the research group led by Ute Seeland came to the discovery that sex hormones also influence the body’s defenses. In fact, they tested hormone therapy against menopause. The women were given the missing hormone estradiol. It turns out that women over the age of 50 with a corona infection and treated with estradiol have a lower risk of suffering the consequences of Covid-19.illness To die like their peers without hormonal treatment.

Chromosomes are involved in women’s rapid immune response to RNA viruses

Another reason for the differences in the immune system is found in the chromosomes. Usually women have two X chromosomes, men have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome (there are, of course, deviations from this constellation, on the one hand social gender is ignored here, and on the other hand, there is also the possibility of other chromosomes – combinations ).

There are important genes that are found only on the X chromosomes. So a person with two X chromosomes can compensate for some harmful genetic defect because the other X chromosome is “interfering”. Different genes are read from both X chromosomes in some cells. This also includes the genes important for the immune system, which in turn means that the respective proteins that the cell produces on the basis of these genes are present in greater quantities. “These cells then have a faster response to the RNA viruses,” Altfield says.

Rapid immune response but more prone to autoimmune diseases

However, the strength of the female immune system also has a downside – women suffer from autoimmune diseases more often than men. Here the defense is directed against the body (eg in lupus erythematosus or multiple sclerosis).

However, the findings described here are by no means all the details that explain why women die significantly less than men from or have COVID-19 disease. Likewise, not all information is known about the points at which the immune response of men and women in general differs.

Resources: spiegel.de, rki.de, study: “Male gender is an indicator of high mortality among hospitalized adults with COVID-19“, Stady: “Type 1 IFNs in patients with life-threatening COVID-19“, Stady: “Gender differences in immune responses underlying COVID-19 disease outcomes“, Stady: “Evidence for treatment with estradiol in women with SARS-CoV-2 . infection

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