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Why Does the Coronavirus Hit Men Harder? A New Clue
Women produce a more powerful immune response than do men, a new study finds.
The coronavirus may infect anyone, young or old, but older men are up to twice as likely to become severely sick and to die as women of the same age.
Why? The first study to look at immune response to the coronavirus by sex has turned up a clue: Men produce a weaker immune response to the virus than do women, the researchers concluded.
The findings, published on Wednesday in Nature, suggest that men, particularly those over age 60, may need to depend more on vaccines to protect against the infection.
“Natural infection is clearly failing” to spark adequate immune responses in men, said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University who led the work.
The results are consistent with what’s known about sex differences following various challenges to the immune system.
Women mount faster and stronger immune responses, perhaps because their bodies are rigged to fight pathogens that threaten unborn or newborn children.
But over time, an immune system in a constant state of high alert can be harmful. Most autoimmune diseases — characterized by an overly strong immune response — are much more prevalent in women than in men, for example.