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How Your Sex Affects Your Risk for Getting the Coronavirus

New research reveals what traits raise susceptibility to COVID-19.
Intensive care caucasian doctor examines intubated critical stance patient writing notes to case report in intensive care department

Details of ill-effects of the COVID-19 outbreak continue to be revealed to medical and public health experts alike, and as such, we are beginning to see a clearer picture of what has thus far been a complicated and opaque coronavirus pandemic. New research from the European Heart Journal is illuminating at least one significant reason why COVID-19 mortality is greater in men than in women: enzymes found only in the blood of males.

During a Coronavirus Task Force press conference last month, Dr. Deborah Birx warned "to all of our men out there, no matter what age group: If you have symptoms, you should be tested and make sure that you are tested," citing data that showed how men were testing positive at a much higher rate than women. Birx added "It gives you an idea about how men often don't present in the health-care delivery system until they have greater symptomatology." said Birx.

In research published Monday, Dr. Iziah Sama of the Netherlands' University Medical Center Groningen "When we found that one of the strongest biomarkers, ACE2, was much higher in men than in women, I realized that this had the potential to explain why men were more likely to die from COVID-19 than women."

ACE2 is short for angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and is a receptor or "gatekeeper" to cells, which binds to the coronavirus and allows the disease to infect healthy cells. The coronavirus is largely a respiratory illness, and since lungs have high levels of ACE2 "it is thought to play a crucial role in the progression of lung disorders related to COVID-19," says study leader Dr. Adriaan Voors in a press release.

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According to the NY Post:

There are also large quantities of ACE2 in the testicles. The new study corroborates previous findings that men's testes make them more vulnerable to the virus.

Researchers for the new study looked at ACE2 concentrations in blood samples from over 3,700 heart failure patients from 11 European countries. Based on their findings, they believe having a history of heart issues and the use of ACE inhibitors and MRAs (mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists), both heart medications, did not correlate with elevated ACE2 concentrations — but being male did.

A recent study of COVID-related deaths that looked at almost 6,000 cases conducted in New York by Northwell Health Systems showed that 60% of all fatalities were male patients, representing 50% more than their female counterparts. They also found the vast majority of fatalities came to patients who had other underlying conditions like hypertension, obesity, and diabetes.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.

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