Scientists have found in a new study that men who have lower levels of testosterone have a higher risk of dying from coronavirus if they ever catch the disease. In the study, researchers have discovered that in 45 COVID-19 patients admitted in the intensive care unit in a German hospital, testosterone plays a crucial role in their survival against the deadly virus.
Researchers found that the broad majority of men admitted had significantly low testosterone levels. Without an ample supply of the sex hormone, the body won't be able to regulate its immune response, which could lead to a deadly 'cytokine storm.' They have found that testosterone may be capable of keeping the body's immune system from going out of control.
In the study, the researchers evaluated the first 45 COVID-19-positive patients admitted to the ICU at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. Thirty-five of the patients were men, while ten were women. Seven of the patients required oxygen, and 33 of them required the use of ventilation.
Before the patients received any invasive procedures, their hormone levels were assessed on their first day of admission to the ICU. Samples from the patients were tested for 12 hormones, along with testosterone and dihydrotestosterone.
Of the male COVID-19 patients sent to ICU at the German hospital, more than 68% recorded low levels of testosterone. On the contrary, the majority of female patients had elevated testosterone levels. Of all the participants in the study, nine men and three women died.
Although low levels of testosterone can not curb the immune response in men, the study found that in female COVID-19 patients, higher testosterone levels were linked to a more compelling inflammatory response.
The sex hormone is known to aid in controlling the body's immune response. However, when a man has low levels of testosterone, the immune system is not at its best and can lead to further damage when contracting an infection.
This could possibly lead to a so-called cytokine storm, which occurs when the immune system goes berserk as it tries to kill the pathogen. A cytokine storm eventually begins injuring the body itself and, if left alone, can cause death.
What is Hypogonadism?
Hypogonadism in men is a condition where the body doesn't produce enough of the sex hormone, testosterone. The hormone plays a crucial role in masculine growth and development during puberty.
Some men are born with hypogonadism, while others develop them later on in life, usually from infection or injury. Some types of the condition can be treated with testosterone replacement therapy.
The condition can undoubtedly reduce the quality of life and, in some cases, has resulted in the loss of livelihood and separation of couples. Testosterone has many vital actions involved in metabolism, vasculature, and brain function. Furthermore, the hormone also has well-known effects on bone and body composition.
Coronavirus in Men
Statistics prove that coronavirus seems to hit men harder than women. Experts say that some of it may be due to the behavior of men when it comes to tobacco smoke and drinking alcohol. Such lifestyle and behavior could predispose them to have more underlying diseases than women.
Another behavioral factor to consider is that men tend to seek medical care later in the course of disease than women do. Most women tend to act fast and consult their physicians right away, while men display the 'macho' attitude and avoid going to see their doctor as much as possible.
Biological factors could play a part in this too. Professionals say that men have weaker immune systems and that sex hormones involved in the process of how the immune system starts an inflammatory response to pathogens may also be involved.