It's hard to scroll through the daily news cycle without ingesting a headline about the dreaded coronavarius and its dangers. The infectious disease originated in China but has now reached most corners of the globe, with symptoms that are frighteningly similar to those of the common cold or flu.
You're probably aware the coronavirus — officially named Covid-19 — cannot be caught from drinking Corona lager. You can, however, contract the disease by being within two metres of an infected individual. And as new analysis suggests, the infectious disease could pose a more prominent threat to middle-aged men.
Such are the findings from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which has just published the largest analysis of coronavirus to date. Men and women have been infected by Covid-19 in relatively equal measures, but the death rate among infected men was more than 1% higher, with one in 36 men dying from the disease.
The figures were drawn from patient records and, interestingly, pose a similar correlation to the outbreak of SARS and MERS viruses, which had a higher death rate among men. SARS in particular saw an approximate 50 per cent higher death rate in men that were infected in Hong Kong in 2003, according to a Annals of Internal Medicine study.
“This is a pattern we’ve seen with many viral infections of the respiratory tract — men can have worse outcomes,” said Sabra Klein, a scientist specialising in sex differences within viral infections at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "We’ve seen this with other viruses. Women fight them off better."
A 2011 study from Ghent University published in BioEssays also highlighted how, at a chromosome level, women had stronger immune systems to men and solidified women as the more robust gender.
"Statistics show that in humans, as with other mammals, females live longer than males and are more able to fight off shock episodes from sepsis, infection or trauma," said Dr Claude Libert from Ghent University.
"We believe this is due to the X chromosome, which in humans contains 10% of all microRNAs detected so far in the genome. The roles of many remain unknown, but several X chromosome-located strands of microRNA have important functions in immunity and cancer."
Simply put, these findings suggest that the mechanisms of the female X chromosome have a strong impact on genealogy and can give women an "immunological advantage". Men, unfortunately, are posed with a immunological disadvantage. So it seems, at a microscopic level, "man flu" could be real.
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