Women may mount stronger COVID-19 immune response
Published: 07:00 PM, 27 August 2020 Updated: 09:12 PM, 27 August 2020
Representational Photo; collected
A study has found that impact of COVID-19 differs based on the patient’s sex. According to the study, women are more likely to develop a stronger immune response to the novel coronavirus compared with men.
The findings published in the journal Nature on Wednesday noted that globally, men account for about 60 percent of COVID-19 related deaths - the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Leading author of the study US’s Yale University Professor Mr. Akiko Iwasaki said, “What we found was that men and women indeed develop different types of immune responses to COVID-19.”
“These differences may underlie heightened disease susceptibility in men,” the immunity specialist said.
Researchers collected nasal, saliva, and blood samples from non-infected control subjects and patients with the disease who were treated at Yale New Haven Hospital in the United States.
They found that women mounted a more robust immune response involving T lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that can recognise viruses and eliminate them. This was the case even among older women, the study found.
Meanwhile, elderly men had weaker T cell activity. How older they were, much weaker the response.
Overall men also produced more cytokines, which are inflammatory proteins that form another part of the body’s natural immune defence.
However, severe cases of COVID-19 have been linked to what is known as a “cytokine storm”, when the immune system goes into overdrive, which is harmful and potentially deadly.
Men who showed high concentrations early on were more likely to have a severe case of the disease, while those women who also showed significant cytokine levels appeared to fare worse, the study found.
According to the authors, this could imply that men and women need different treatments.
For men, for example, “we should be enhancing their T cell responses with vaccines”, Iwasaki said, while women could be given treatment to dampen the cytokine response.
However, the point to be noted that the study has limitations. Firstly, the sample size was relatively small, with 98 patients in total. And secondly, the average age of the patients was also high, at around sixty years.
News source: Al Jazeera