A new study has found that women produce a more powerful immune response than men do. While coronavirus may infect anyone, young or old, older men are up to twice as likely to become severely sick and to die as women of the same age.
According to a new study, men produce a weaker immune response to the virus than women do, the researchers concluded.
The findings, published on Wednesday in a Nature magazine, suggest that men, particularly those over age 60, may need to depend more on vaccines to protect themselves 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.
Results on sex differences reveal that women mount faster and stronger immune responses, perhaps because their bodies are rigged to fight pathogens that threaten unborn or newborn children.
Dr. Marcus Altfeld, an immunologist at the Heinrich Pette Institute notes that companies pursuing coronavirus vaccines may need to parse their data by sex. This may influence their decisions about dosing.
“You could imagine scenarios where a single shot of a vaccine might be sufficient in young individuals or maybe young women, while older men might need to have three shots of vaccine,” Dr. Altfeld said.
Dr. William Gruber, a vice president at Pfizer, also hinted that companies may need to base their coronavirus data against sex differences as well as by racial and ethnic background.
Dr. Iwasaki and his team analyzed immune responses in 98 men and women who were admitted to the hospital soon after they were infected with the coronavirus.
Overall, the scientists found, the women’s bodies produced more so-called T cells, which can kill virus-infected cells and stop the infection from spreading.
Men showed much weaker activation of T cells, and that lag was linked to how sick the men became. The older the men, the weaker their T cell responses.
When men age, they lose their ability to stimulate T cells. Those who really fail to make T cells do worse with the disease.
The scientists also noted that women who are older — even very old, like 90 years old- are still making pretty good, decent immune response.
However, the study has limitations. It was small, and the patients were older than 60 on average, making it difficult to assess how the immune response changes with age.
Reference: The New York Times
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