Covid-19 - Women have a genetic advantage

Here's what scientists say

As the world combats what is considered the most serious health crisis in a century, researchers are frantically collecting data to better understand who is most vulnerable to Covid-19 and why. A pattern is emerging in almost every country. 


Gender-specific observations and implications for COVID-19 paired with global reported cases indicate men are 50% to 80% more likely to die of Covid-19 (following a diagnosis) than women. Are men more susceptible to an increased severity of infection or are women more immune? New study addresses the disparity.



Other Stats 


  • In New York state as of April 9, more than 60% of over 6,200 total deaths have been men. 
  • In addition, data from recent SARS (2003) and MERS (2012) outbreaks demonstrated a significantly higher case fatality rate in males as compared to females, 21.9% vs 13.2%.


Biological forces at play

Women - Research states that in general there exists gender based differences in the way the human body fights off infections. For instance, X chromosome carries the largest number of immune-related genes in the human genome contributing to female’s superior immune response. It however also puts women more at risk for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. Additionally hormones influence the immune system and response, and estrogen in the case of women, help provide a more effective defense.


Men-  On the other hand testosterone hormones lower immune response making men more vulnerable with increased mortality from viral respiratory illnesses.


Behavioral and cultural variables


  • Smoking Rate - In countries like Iran, China, Italy, and South Korea where fewer females have contracted the virus, the female smoking rates are much lower than males. A recent COVID-19 study on 20th March mention that “Smokers contract more respiratory ailments, including colds (commonly rhinoviruses, but also coronaviruses) than non-smokers” Similar gender-specific trends are also present in the US, where 17.6% of smokers are men as compared to 13.6% of women
  • Health conscious - Associated as the traditional caregivers for their loved ones, Women according to a study spend more time than men focused on medical issues related to both their own healthcare and that of their families. In relation to Covid-19, that focus translates to greater hand hygiene knowledge and practice, a must have and a must do against transmission of COVID-19. 


The gender differences are not perfectly consistent 


The reported pandemic information coming from around the world varies and is questionable due to continued lack of testing and increasing concern over unreported deaths. The pattern however is holding steady despite certain governments (including the US) not reporting cases by sex.