There is gender bias at work in the world, but this time, it can be deadly, because the bias comes in the form of COVID-19 and its differing impact on men and women.
Data showed that men are more likely than women to die from COVID-19. Global Health reported that in Greece, for example, men with confirmed cases were 3.2 times more likely to die than women. The data did not cover the United States.
“So far, the mortality disadvantage for men is quite large,” Oxford University demography professor Jennifer Dowd said, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Dowd said women survive infections better than men.
“Women have stronger adaptive immune responses and die less of infectious disease their entire lives, starting from infant mortality,” she said.
A similar pattern of a higher male death rate was found in the SARS and MERS outbreaks, according to the U.K. Daily Mail.
“This is a pattern we’ve seen with many viral infections of the respiratory tract – men can have worse outcomes,” Sabra Klein of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said. “We’ve seen this with other viruses. Women fight them off better.”
“The results show that women in the general population are about 50% more likely than men to adopt/practice non-pharmaceutical behaviors. Conversely, men in the general population are marginally (about 12%) more likely than women to adopt/practice pharmaceutical behaviors,” the study’s abstract explained.
The secret may be in the blood.
A study in the European Heart Journal reported that a chemical found in higher concentrations in men helps the coronavirus do its deadly work.
“Evidence from a large study of several thousand patients shows that men have higher concentrations of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in their blood than women. Since ACE2 enables the coronavirus to infect healthy cells, this may help to explain why men are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than women,” a news release from the European Society of Cardiology read.
“When we found that one of the strongest biomarkers, ACE2, was much higher in men than in women, I realised that this had the potential to explain why men were more likely to die from COVID-19 than women,” Dr. Iziah Sama, one of the study’s authors, said.
ACE2 is found in high levels in the testes, the researchers said, which could be why men have higher concentrations than women, leading them to be more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Despite the data, one Australian lawmaker has called the disease a crisis for women.
“Let us not forget that COVID-19 is a gendered crisis. Nurses, nurse aids, teachers, child care workers and early childhood educators, age care workers and cleaners, are mostly women,” Australian Senator Mehreen Faruqi said in March.
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