MOST viruses generally don't discriminate between genders – they just want to continue their infectious spread.
But there's growing evidence that Covid-19 isn't like other viruses as it appears to be disproportionately affecting men.
⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates
Official figures released last week show that the coronavirus death rate for men was double that of women in the UK.
At first glance, these statistics may come as a surprise but experts say that on average men die younger than women and are more susceptible to life-threatening illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer.
So Sars-CoV-2 – the official name of the virus that causes Covid-19 – seems to follow the same pattern.
Data shows that in all six of the countries that had sex-specific records of deaths from Covid-19, up to 20 March, the proportion of men was higher than women.
Give now to The Sun's NHS appeal
BRITAIN’s four million NHS staff are on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus.
But while they are helping save lives, who is there to help them?
The Sun has launched an appeal to raise £1MILLION for NHS workers.
The Who Cares Wins Appeal aims to get vital support to staff in their hour of need.
We have teamed up with NHS Charities Together in their urgent Covid-19 Appeal to ensure the money gets to exactly who needs it.
The Sun is donating £50,000 and we would like YOU to help us raise a million pounds, to help THEM.
No matter how little you can spare, please donate today here
Among those, China, France, Italy and South Korea reported that male mortality rates were more than 50 per cent greater than female rates.
Yet the disparity doesn’t seem to be caused by differential rates of infection.
A study from New York found that equal numbers of men and women catch the virus, but men are more likely to develop severe illness and eventually death.
Experts don't know the exact reason for the discrepancy, but it's thought to be down to lifestyle choices as well as biological differences…
One of the possible reasons smoking affects men disproportionately could be caused by smoking, experts have suggested.
Smoking rates are generally higher among men, particularly in China where the virus originated.
In fact China has the largest population of smokers in the world – accounting for nearly a third of the world's smokers – but just two per cent of them are women.
Meanwhile, in the UK 16.5 per cent of men – around 3.9 million – and 13 per cent of women – around 3.2 million – reported being current smokers.
Smoking cause lung cells to produce more of a protein called ACE2, which Covid-19 is believed to latch onto to infect the respiratory system.
It's also thought that smokers put themselves at a higher risk due to regular hand-to-mouth contact – or sharing of contaminated cigarettes.
An early study from China, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February, found that smokers made up about 26 per cent of those who ended up in intensive care or died of Covid-19.
However, a paper in the Lancet suggested that smoking wasn't a big factor in the disparity.
In two studies analysing Covid-19 deaths in China, of them between 1.4 and 12.6 per cent were smokers.
Meanwhile, authors of an as-yet unpublished study of more than 4,000 cases in New York City, said that they did not find smokers to be at an increased risk.
Weaker immune system
Another possible theory is that women have a more robust immune response than men in fighting infectious diseases.
Experts say that the female sex hormone oestrogen can activate cells involved in antiviral responses, while the male sex hormone testosterone suppresses inflammation.
In a 2016 study published in American Journal of Physiology, nasal cells were treated with oestrogen-like compounds before being exposed to the influenza virus.
Only the cells from females responded to the hormones and fought off the virus.
Scientists also say it could come down to the fact women have two X chromosomes per cell.
The X chromosome has a number of critical immune genes, in particular, the TLR7 which detects single-stranded RNA viruses, like coronavirus.
Prof Philip Goulder, an immunologist at the University of Oxford, told New Scientist: “As a result, this protein is expressed at twice the dose on many immune cells in females compared to males, and the immune response to coronavirus is therefore amplified in females."
Women are also more prone to autoimmune diseases, which causes parts of their immune system to become stronger to compensate, resulting in a possible stronger response to the coronavirus, experts say.
Higher rates of life-threatening disease
Men have higher rates of life-threatening diseases which put them in the at-risk group for Covid-19, experts say.
Generally, males are more susceptible to high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than women.
All of these conditions can increase the risk of complications following infection of coronavirus.
Females routinely outlive men by six to eight years, according to the World Health Organization.
Join our George Cross campaign for NHS staff
We are urging Sun readers to sign a petition calling for our NHS staff to be awarded the George Cross.
We are backing a proposal by Lord Ashcroft to honour our health heroes with the gallantry gong given for acts of bravery that did not take place in battle.
A No10 spokesman said: “The NHS is doing a fantastic job and the nation will want to find a way to say thank you when we have defeated this virus.”
SAS hero Andy McNab added: “The award of a George Cross would show an emotional appreciation.”
We are asking our readers to please sign the petition below.
Men were also disproportionately affected during the SARS and MERS outbreaks – which were caused by similar coronaviruses.
More women were infected by SARS in Hong Kong in 2003, but the death rate was 50 per cent higher, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome killed 32 percent of men infected compared with 25.8 per cent of women.
When Covid-19 enters the body it connects with cells expressing the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, known as the ACE2 protein.
These proteins are found in the lungs, heart and intestines, but they are are also found in large quantities in the testes.
While for women, very small amounts are found in ovarian tissue.
A pilot study has indicated that while women took four days to clear the infection, men took 50 per cent longer, requiring six days.
The research was released ahead of publication on medical website MedRxiv and has not been peer reviewed.
Experts have cast doubt on the study's early findings, saying that coronavirus would need to travel in the bloodstream to reach the testes, which he said was “not generally” what the virus does.
Virology Professor Ian Jones from the University of Reading said: “The main site of virus replication is the respiratory tract and to reach other sites the virus should have to travel in the bloodstream.
“This has been reported for the virus but it is not generally what coronaviruses do."
Since the outbreak of the virus, health officials have warned that the best way to reduce the risk of infection is to practice good hygiene.
Regular hand-washing has been the key message, as well as avoiding touching your face as much as possible.
But experts have suggested that men might not be as conscious of washing their hands as women – and this could be why we're seeing higher rates among men.
Kunihiro Matsushita of Johns Hopkins University said that men are "less likely to comply with basic sanitation measures such as hand washing".
Source: Read Full Article