Yale Medical School Study Discovers Why Women Are Less Likely Than Men to Die From the Coronavirus

A new study led by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found significant differences in how the immune systems of women and men respond to the virus that causes COVID-19. Around the world, men account for about 60 percent of deaths from COVID-19. In England, researchers studying 17 million adults found that men could face nearly twice the risk of death from the disease as women.

“We now have clear data suggesting that the immune landscape in COVID-19 patients is considerably different between the sexes,” said Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and senior author of the study. “Collectively, these data suggest we need different strategies to ensure that treatments and vaccines are equally effective for both women and men.”

The researchers collected nasal, saliva, and blood samples from non-infected control subjects as well as patients with the disease. The team followed patients over time to observe how initial immune responses differ in patients who recover from the disease and those who progress to worse stages of the disease. When comparing male and female patients, the researchers found key differences in the immune response during the early phases of infection. These differences included higher levels for men of several types of inflammatory proteins called cytokines. In severe cases of COVID-19, an excessive buildup of cytokines, referred to as a “cytokine storm,” causes fluid to build up in the lungs, depriving the body of oxygen and potentially leading to shock, tissue damage, and multiple organ failure. The earlier higher concentrations of cytokines in men make these outcomes more likely.

The full study, “Sex Differences in Immune Responses That Underlie COVID-19 Disease Outcomes,” was published on the website of the journal Nature. It may be accessed here.

A video about the study can be viewed below.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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