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Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

New Delhi: All over the world at least 2.97 lakh people have lost their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While novel coronavirus has equal potential to penetrate and spread irrespective of gender and age, but common notions that males are more susceptible to COVID-19 as compared to women and even fatalities among the males are more, have been seen in the worldwide data of COVID fatalities and India is no exception.

On March 17, Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS Delhi, had told IANS that a trend that is quite conspicuous in the worldwide data of COVID-19 is that males are more vulnerable to COVID 19 as compared to women but the reason for the trend was not ascertained. "One interesting trend is also that it has occurred more in men compared to women," he had said adding "the reason is yet to be found behind such a trend."

Well, it seems that the mystery has been decoded by the health community of the world. In a report published on May 10 in 'European Heart Journal' it was found that more concentration of Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or ACE2 in males as compared to females could be responsible for such a trend. The report said, "The current pandemic coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 infects a wide age group but predominantly elderly individuals, especially men and those with cardiovascular disease."

The study also said that "patients with heart failure, plasma ACE2 concentrations were higher in men than in women, possibly reflecting higher tissue expression of this receptor for SARS coronavirus infections. This could explain why men might be more susceptible to infection with, or the consequences of, SARS-CoV-2."

The sample size for the study was 1,485 men and 537 women with heart failure and the results were validated in 1,123 men and 575 women. However, none of them was COVID patient. But the researchers involved in the study believed that other research on how ACE2 interacts with the virus can help explain the variance in death rates between men and women.

ACE2 is an enzyme, present in most organs and is attached to the cell membrane of mainly lung type II alveolar cells. It binds with coronaviruses like the one which causes COVID-19 and allows them to more easily infect healthy cells.

The report however categorically said, "The conclusions drawn in this analysis are mainly restricted to heart failure, albeit a group of patients at high risk for COVID-19." However, experts in India attribute men's lifestyle responsible for such a trend.

Dr Vichar Nigam working at the Internal Medicine Department at the Columbia Asia Hospital in Pune told IANS that the reason behind such a trend appears to be more logical than scientific. "The reason why more and more males are testing positive is the fact that they tend to move out in search of household items and involve in general social talk more than the women. Also, women, while taking care of household activities tend to wash hands more often. Especially during a social lockdown, men would always be interested in going out for whatsoever reason. Whereas women, understanding their responsibility to take care of the household and children mostly remain indoors."

Echoing the same rationale, Dr Manoj Goel, Director, Pulmonology at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, told IANS that males were more prone for this infection due to more social exposure. "Males are at a higher risk factor of COVID infection than females possibly because their social exposure is happening more than females. It is seen mostly men leaving their houses to get the essential things which makes them more exposed to the virus than females."

Dr Goel also said, "Various risk factors in the form of co-morbidities like heart diseases, hypertension, diabetes, chronic lung disease and habit of excessive smoking and drinking are also more common in men as compared to women. These co-morbidities are responsible for more deaths due to Covid-19 in men than women. Whoever is stepping out of the house be it male or female, even to buy essentials, should ensure to follow all necessary precautions."

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