It seems that we are not all equal in the face of the coronavirus. According to several studies, men and women are also often infected, but men are more likely to develop severe forms of the disease.
Several explanations have been mentioned by scientists. Men would for example more likely to be in risk categories facing the virus. In particular, they are more often affected by cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
This week, researchers at Yale University in the United States found a new lead to explain this difference. According to their study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, men have a lower immune response than women.
A data to take into account in the vaccine
The study analyzed the immune responses of a few dozen men and women who had been admitted to hospital after being infected with Covid-19. Result: women produce more T cells, cells that help fight the virus.
And this is especially true with age. As we age, men produce fewer and fewer of these virus-killing cells, while women, even after 90 years, “still have a correct and fairly good immune response,” explains the New York Times Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, the immunologist in charge of the study.
In contrast, the reasons for this different immune reaction are not explained by scientists. According to Sabra Klein, a vaccine expert interviewed by the New York Times, “it is doubtful that sex steroid hormones are involved”. In short: it would not be the fault of testosterone or estradiol for example. This opens up avenues for research: by studying women’s immune responses, researchers could find solutions against the virus.
Finally, this study shows that research for a possible vaccine will likely need to pay special attention to gender. Men, especially after 60, may need a vaccine much more, and perhaps at different doses.