Why do more men die from COVID-19 than women?

In all the statistics of death by COVID-19 there are more deceased men than women.

One well-known important factor in COVID-19 deaths is the presence of chronic diseases, particularly heart disease, diabetes and cancer. In this way, since they are more common in men than in women, it could partially explain the statistics.

Furthermore, man and woman are biologically different animals, which means that they differ in their sex chromosomes and in the genes found in them. Women have two copies of a medium-sized chromosome (called X). Males have a single X chromosome and a small Y chromosome that contains only few genes.

In this sense, and although it is still a hypothesis, Jenny Graves ―a geneticist expert from La Trobe University― says that, perhaps, a toxic Y could lose its regulation during aging. If so, this could accelerate aging in men and make them more susceptible to the virus.

Besides, testosterone levels are implicated in many diseases, particularly heart disease, and can affect life expectancy. In addition, men are also at a disadvantage because of their low estrogen levels, which protect women from many diseases (including heart disease).

Moreover, the presence of two X chromosomes in XX women provides a buffer if a gene in one X is mutated. XY men lack this backup copy of the X chromosome. This is why boys suffer from many sex-related illnesses, such as hemophilia (poor blood clotting). Women not only have a double dose of many X genes, but can also have the benefit of two different versions of each gene. This X effect may explain why men die at a higher rate than women at all ages from birth.

Finally, women have a stronger immune system than men. This makes women more susceptible to autoimmune diseases like lupus and multiple sclerosis, but instead gives them an advantage in terms of susceptibility to viruses, as many studies in mice and humans show. This helps explain why men are more susceptible to many viruses, including SARS and MERS.

Editorial Disclaimer: information published during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic may be updated frequently to reflect the dynamic nature of current understanding.

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