A new European study has found that men are more likely to die of COVID-19 than women due to higher levels of a key blood enzyme that aids the infection in them.
In a report published in the European Heart Journal, UK experts said that a higher presence of the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) could explain why more men die from COVID-19.
ACE2, which attaches to the outer surface lungs, arteries, heart, kidney, and intestines cells, function as receptors that bind to the novel coronavirus and allows it to enter and infect cells.
The team of medical experts, who began their study before the pandemic, analysed thousands of blood samples, testing over 3,500 heart failure patients from 11 European countries for ACE2.
According to them, men’s high levels of ACE2, which were also found in the testes, could account for why they are more likely to suffer severe complications after contracting the infection.
“When we found that one of the strongest biomarkers, ACE2, was much higher in men than in women, I realised that this had the potential to explain why men were more likely to die from COVID-19 than women,” Reuters quoted Iziah Sama, a doctor at UMC Groningen who co-led the study, to have said.
Adriaan Voors, a doctor who also co-led the study at the University Medical Center (UMC) Groningen in the Netherlands, explained that ACE2 was found to play a crucial role in COVID-19 lung disorders.
However, he ruled that ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), often prescribed to congestive heart failure patients, didn’t increase their ACE2 concentrations and COVID-19 risk.
“ACE2 binds to the coronavirus and allows it to enter and infect healthy cells after it is has been modified by another protein on the surface of the cell, called TMPRSS2,” the doctor explained.
“High levels of ACE2 are present in the lungs and, therefore, it is thought to play a crucial role in the progression of lung disorders related to COVID-19.”
With the global cases exceeding four million and nearly 285,000 deaths, the study corroborated with recent statistics pointing to men as being more likely than women to contract the disease or suffer critical complications if they do.
The new research also comes a month after another study had claimed that men may be more vulnerable to the novel coronavirus than women because of their reproductive organs (testicles).
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