Doctors in China have found that, based on a small sample size, the novel coronavirus appears to be more fatal to men.
According to a study published Wednesday in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, the research team concluded that, while both sexes were equally susceptible to the disease, men were 2.4 times more likely to die than women. Of the country’s first 37 COVID-19 casualties, about 70% were male, compared with 30% female.
The analysis was based on the earliest 1,056 COVID-19 cases reported by the Chinese authorities.
“Our sample size is small because there wasn’t enough data when we started studying the sex difference,” Yang Jinkui, an endocrinologist at Beijing Tongren Hospital and a co-author of the study, told Sixth Tone. “So we compared the trend against SARS patients and found similar results.”
The SARS coronavirus killed nearly 800 people globally in 2003, with Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland reporting the most deaths. For the new study, the research team investigated 524 SARS patients in Beijing and found the death rate was significantly higher in men than in women.
Though it remains unknown why COVID-19 appears to be more fatal to men, Yang said it could be linked to an enzyme in the human body.
Both SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV — the viruses that cause COVID-19 and SARS, respectively — invade the human body by binding to an enzyme called ACE2. A previous study found that men had higher levels of ACE2 circulating in their bodies than women, meaning the virus might attack men more easily, Yang said.
“It’s becoming clearer from recent data that men were two to three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than women,” he said. “Our research suggests that doctors should monitor male severe cases and provide intensive care earlier on.”
Reports from other countries have also suggested that men may be more susceptible to the new coronavirus. A study from Italy found that 82% of 1,591 critically ill COVID-19 patients were men, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also suggested that men might be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 compared with women.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: People look at their mobile phones in Wuhan, Hubei province, April 5, 2020. Liu Youzhi/Southern Metropolis Daily/People Visual)