How the Coronavirus Disproportionately Affects Men’s Health

Man with coronavirus

New Research Sheds Further Light on the Impact of Covid-19 on Men

New information regarding Covid-19 seems to pop up on a daily basis, while researchers monitor the spread and impact of the coronavirus as it infects populations around the world. But it seems that when it comes to the virus, men are getting the short end of the stick.

According to analysis conducted by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, even though both men and women have been infected in approximately the same numbers, the death rate among men was 2.8%, compared to only 1.7% among women. Because the data was taken from patient medical records, these numbers might not fully measure the scale of the outbreak – but this disparity has been noted before.

For instance, men were also more susceptible during the SARS and MERS outbreaks, both of which are forms of coronaviruses. In fact, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, even though fewer men than women were infected by SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in Hong Kong in 2003, the death rate among men was 50% greater.

The MERS virus (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) killed 32% of those men infected, compared to 25.8% of women. During the flu epidemic of 1918, young adult men died at higher rates than their female counterparts as well.

Does the Coronavirus Decrease Testosterone in Men?

If these numbers weren’t bad enough, new evidence pertaining to the effects of the virus on testosterone indicates that it could result in sexual health complications in men. Blood testing of coronavirus patients in a preliminary study suggest the possibility for problems with testicular function.

According to preliminary findings published on medRxiv.org, researchers with the Hubei Clinical Research Center for Prenatal Diagnosis and Birth Health and the Zhongnan Hospital at Wuhan University examined blood collected from more than 80 men between the ages of 20-54 testing positive for the coronavirus and were hospitalized in January.

The participants in the study had an average age of 38 and about 90% of them only experienced mild symptoms. The blood samples were taken during the final days of their hospital stay.

Analyzing the blood, the researchers measured the percentage of testosterone to luteinising hormone (T/LH). A poor T/LH ratio can indicate hypogonadism, which is a decrease in testosterone production in men due to a reduced function of the testicles.

The average percentage for the participants was just 0.74, which is only about half the normal level.

Some typical symptoms associated with hypogonadism in men may include unusually large breasts (gynecomastia), and erectile dysfunction.

Discussing the study’s findings, the Wuhan researchers said that over half of those testing positive for coronavirus were of reproductive age, and that further consideration should be given to the impact that Sars-CoV-2 (the medical term for COVID-19) could have on men’s reproductive systems.

However, they said that the results were not conclusive and the testing was not direct evidence of reproductive issues with coronavirus patients.

Doctors in Wuhan, the centrally-located Chinese city where the outbreak first began, are set to begin a long-term study of the effects of Covid-19 on the male reproductive system, picking up where the previous research left off.

Earlier studies have suggested that the novel coronavirus might bind with the receptor protein cell ACE2, which are found in the testicles in large numbers.

Professor of reproductive medicine Li Yufeng, from the Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, had theorized in previous research that the testicles could potentially become a focus of attack in a coronavirus infection.

Supporting this link, other research has also indicated that SARS, which is related to the new coronavirus, might also cause inflammation in the testicles.

Speaking about this most current data, a researcher from the State Key Laboratory of Reproductive Medicine at Nanjing Medical University commented that the recent findings were extremely valuable data, but that a larger study would be necessary to fully understand the results.

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