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Study: Men at higher risk for serious illness, death from COVID-19

Study: Men at higher risk for serious illness, death from COVID-19
Men are at higher risk for ICU admission and death due to COVID-19, a new study has found. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Men infected with COVID-19 are nearly three times as likely to require intensive care unit treatment and have a far higher risk for death from the virus than women, according to a study published Wednesday by Nature Communications.

However, men and women have about the same risk for becoming infected with the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, the data showed.

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"I don't want men to feel vulnerable because of [these] data," study co-author Dr. Kate Webb said in a press release.

"The findings should empower researchers to ask why we see these differences, and how we can exploit this information in the fight against COVID-19," said Webb, a pediatric rheumatologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

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To date, researchers estimate that men account for more than half of those infected with the new coronavirus. However, this could be because men are more likely to develop symptoms and experience serious illness, Webb and her colleagues said.

As a result, they are more likely to be tested and receive treatment, the researchers said.

In the analysis of data from 90 studies on more than 3.1 million of the 68 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally -- from 46 countries, including 44 U.S. states -- the researchers found that men and women appear to have the same risk for infection.

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However, once infected, the similarities end. In the eight studies included in the analysis that tracked COVID-19-related intensive care unit admissions, men accounted for nearly 70% of them, according to Webb and her colleagues.

And in the 70 studies included that reported on COVID-19 deaths, roughly 56% of the more than 214,000 documented deaths involved men, the researchers said.

Based on their findings, sex or gender should be considered an important biological factor when designing therapies and vaccination strategies for the virus, they said.

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"We don't think that there is sufficient difference between the numbers of men and women with [underlying health conditions] to fully explain the stark differences seen in the severity of COVID-19," Webb said.

However, "we know that men, in general, have poorer immune responses to many different infections," she said.

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