Women have the better immune system – even with Corona

corona women immune system
Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / geralt

Studies show that men suffer significantly more severe courses from corona and other infectious diseases and die more frequently from these diseases than women. According to researchers, the reason for this is probably the X chromosome.

Even if about the same number of men and women have been infected with Corona, the numbers of seriously ill and dead people show clear differences. The risk of dying from Covid-19 is about 31 to 47 percent higher for men than for women, according to a 2020 study. According to the Pharmazeutische Zeitung, around two-thirds of all corona deaths in Germany were male.

It has long been known that men also tend to become more seriously ill and die more frequently from other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis B. In research, the assumption has been established that women have a stronger and more active immune system until menopause.

Note: So far there have only been surveys and analyzes in science that speak of men and women. So far, institutes have hardly recorded the effects of Covid and other infectious diseases on non-binary, intersex and trans* people. In addition, it is usually unclear what a research team or institute actually understands by “man” and “woman”. However, the explanations show that scientists group people with the chromosome XY under “men” and people with the chromosome combination XX under “women”. In the following article, these designations will therefore continue to be used in this sense. However, Utopia is aware that “male” and “female” are not fixed biological categories but rather socially created constructs.

Differences in the immune system: chromosomes and sex hormones

In people who have two X chromosomes, the possible number of different defense mechanisms increases.
In people who have two X chromosomes, the possible number of different defense mechanisms increases.
(Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / Furiosa-L)

The fact that women have a stronger immune system, according to various studies, is probably primarily related to the chromosome combination. According to the Pharmazeutische Zeitung, a large proportion of the genes that influence the immune system are located exclusively on the X chromosome. Individuals defined by research as females have two of these chromosomes. For a long time it was assumed that the second X chromosome was completely inactive and therefore had no effect on immune reactions.

Today, this thesis is considered disproved. It is now clear that the genes of the second X chromosome can also play a role in immune responses. As a result, people with two X chromosomes have a higher number of different defense mechanisms in their bodies.

The sex hormones also have a strong influence on our immune system. According to Quarks, this is how estrogen can drive immune responses. Testosterone, on the other hand, tends to inhibit the work of the immune system and suppress immune responses.

According to Quarks, the fact that corona causes severe courses, especially in men, is probably due to the ACE2 receptor. It occurs in various organs, including the lungs and heart. The corona virus docks onto this receptor and thus enters the interior of a cell. According to Quarks, ACE2 is less pronounced in children and women than in men. The receptor is found less frequently in the cells of the lungs in women. In addition, estrogen inhibits the spread of the receptor. This could explain why, according to the statistics, Covid-19 is particularly affecting men so badly.

Strong immune system and autoimmune diseases

For women, however, an active immune system does not only have advantages. According to the Pharmazeutische Zeitung, it also means that women are more likely to be affected by autoimmune diseases. In these diseases, there is a misguided control of the immune system. This causes the body to attack its own cells and organs. Typical autoimmune diseases include, for example, chronic intestinal inflammation (such as Crohn’s disease), type 1 diabetes or multiple sclerosis.

Furthermore, the strong immune system means that women often suffer from strong vaccination reactions and undesirable side effects, according to the Pharmazeutische Zeitung. The advantage of this: Even lower doses would often be sufficient to ensure comprehensive protection. In addition, the immunity lasts longer.

What role does our behavior play?

According to the Pharmazeutische Zeitung, the fact that men suffer more severely from certain diseases could also be due to their behavior. Men tend to drink more alcohol, smoke and eat unhealthily. Quarks also confirms that significantly more men smoke worldwide and are therefore more susceptible to corona. Around 35 percent of all men worldwide smoke. For women, the number is only about six percent.

The Pharmazeutische Zeitung names the sex hormone testosterone as the cause of the unhealthier behavior. This occurs in men in a higher concentration in the blood and makes them more willing to take risks. However, according to current research, the connection between testosterone and risk-taking is nothing more than a myth, according to the magazine “Bild der Wissenschaft”. Researcher Amanda Hughes tells the magazine that testosterone’s effects are generally overstated and new research hasn’t proved it.

Rather, a 2009 study suggests that different behaviors and lifestyles between female and male readers are learned rather than innate. Accordingly, upbringing and socialization play an important role in the different behaviors between the sexes. In this sense, toxic masculinity not only perpetuates gender injustices, but can ultimately promote severe disease in male-readers.

Read more on Techzle.com:

  • Gender Data Gap: Why our world is not made for women
  • Toxic Femininity: That means the behavior pattern
  • Family time: relaxed through the cold season

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