A doctoral student at Ben-Gurion University specializing in immune system gender differences explains why mortality rates from coronavirus are significantly higher in men.
By United with Israel Staff
Shani Gal-Oz, a doctoral student at Ben-Gurion University specializing in immune system gender differences, explained various factors causing significantly higher mortality rates in men than in women from coronavirus.
Though it is known that the elderly and immunocompromised are disproportionally affected by coronavirus and have a much higher rate of mortality, men fall victim to the dreaded virus in staggeringly higher numbers.
At a recent White House press conference, Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator Deborah Birx said that mortality in men was twice as much as in females in every age group. In China, two-thirds of the hospital patients were male. Seventy percent of fatalities in Italy were male.
Virologists have long noted that men are more susceptible to viral agents than women, and women tend to have a more active immune systems than men. This is seen with common autoimmune disorders from which nine out of 10 sufferers are men.
Gal-Oz offered several insights into this phenomenon. She noted that women develop more macrophage cells from birth than men. Macrophages are a type of white blood cell in the immune system that engulf and digest cellular debris, foreign substances, microbes, cancer cells, and anything else that does not have the type of proteins specific to healthy body cells on its surface.
“We have seen that a portion of the macrophage population is active without immune stimulation, a phenomenon that has not been observed in males,” Gal-Oz said, according to The Ladders. “Portions of the X chromosome are involved in the regulation of gene expression of the immune system on other chromosomes and men have an X chromosome and a Y, while women have two copies of the X.”
Similarly, a SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome related to coronavirus) study on mice, found that female rodents were protected from the disease due to estrogen.
Gal-Oz hypothesizes that a woman’s body is designed to better fight viruses to protect a fetus.
“In pregnancy, the woman’s body has to avoid a negative response to the development inside of it of an entire organism, half of whose DNA is totally foreign,” she said. “Various mechanisms have to activate to suppress the immune reaction of the body so that it doesn’t act against the embryo.”
Additionally, behaviors more often found in men make them more susceptible to respiratory illnesses. For example, men tend to smoke more than women, have more cardiovascular disease due to poorer diet, and maintain lower standards of hygiene.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, shockingly, both sexes are lax in hand-washing after using public bathrooms. However, while 65 percent of women do so, only 31 percent of men do.
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