Just a few weeks after the first cases of coronavirus were identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019, it became clear that the virus was more devastating for certain parts of the population than others. The most at-risk demographics were quickly pinpointed. Amongst the most initially obvious: older adults, those with preexisting conditions, and men. Ever since, researchers have been scrambling to understand why these people are more prone to a serious coronavirus infection and in extreme cases, death. According to one new study, they may have an answer—when it comes to gender at least. Read on, and to keep yourself and others safe during this pandemic, don’t miss this essential list of the Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
Women Produce a Stronger Immune Response Than Men
The findings, published in the medical journal Nature claim that the reason why older men are twice as likely to become seriously ill and die compared to women of the same age has to do with immune response—women produce a much stronger immune response than men. Therefore, it suggests that men, primarily those over the age of 60, need to rely on vaccines more heavily.
Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University and lead author of the study, explained to the New York Times that “Natural infection is clearly failing” to spark adequate immune responses in men.
Dr. Iwasaki and her team looked at the immune responses in 17 men and 22 women admitted to the hospital soon after they were infected with COVID-19 who were not on ventilators or taking drugs impacting immunity. They collected multiple samples—blood nasopharyngeal swabs, saliva, urine, and stool—from them every three to seven days.
They also analyzed data from 59 men and women who did not meet those criteria.
What they found is that women produced more T cells—which are responsible for killing virus-infecting cells and stopping the spread of the virus. Men on the other hand, had a much weaker activation of the cells, which correlated with how sick they got. And, the older the age of the man, the weaker T cell response they had.
When Men Age, They Produce Less T Cells
“When they age, they lose their ability to stimulate T cells,” Dr. Iwasaki said. “If you look at the ones that really failed to make T cells, they were the ones who did worse with disease.”
Women, on the other hand, even those who are 90 years old, “are still making pretty good, decent immune response,” according to Dr. Iwasaki. As for yourself, male or female: to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 37 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.
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