Low-T: Men With Low Testosterone Found More Likely to Die From COVID-19 AKA Coronavirus

Posted by Professor Anna Gray, Updated on June 14th, 2020
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As if getting the Coronavirus wasn't bad enough, especially if you're in the high-risk category already (high blood pressure, heart disease, smoker, respiratory issues or over 60 years old), now a German hospital has discovered that their male patients with low testosterone are succumbing to the virus's fatal attack more than their peers with normal testosterone levels.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the data collected on patients has revealed that men are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as compared to women. The effect of low testosterone on men may be the reason behind this statistic.

Testosterone and the Male Immune System

Testosterone does not just play a role in a man's sexual health, as many people tend to think. This is a hormone that plays a role in many different processes and systems within the human body. One of these is the immune system, where testosterone plays an immunomodulatory role.

The hormone has been observed modulating T-cell activation, and a 2016 study found that testosterone is associated with cytokine responses and mediates the body's response to various infections. Cytokines are tiny proteins that are secreted by certain cells of the immune system and are an essential part of cellular communication during an immune response to infection.

They travel to the site of infection and signal the body to send more immune cells to attack the infectious agent.

Cytokine Storm Causes Respiratory Failure in Patients

The scientists studying this new virus highly suspect that death is mainly brought on by a “cytokine storm.” Cytokines are essential components of our immune system, but when they begin to get out of control, it causes significant damage to the body. All of the immune cells arriving at the site (in the case of COVID-19, the site is the lungs) cause inflammation, and healthy cells can be attacked in all the confusion.

If these cytokine proteins aren't regulated and continue to signal for immune cell back-up, the inflammation will overwhelm the lung tissue, damaging the lungs, leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and death. Al Daneshkhah, a fellow at Northwestern University, states: “This is what seems to kill a majority of COVID-19 patients, not the destruction of the lungs by the virus itself. It is the complications from the misdirected fire from the immune system.”

This hyperinflammatory response, a response that is out of control and unregulated by the body, is what is killing most patients, or at least pushing them into respiratory distress.

The phenomenon has been aptly called a “cytokine storm.” Testosterone is thought to be one of the major regulators of cytokines in the male body.

Low Testosterone is a Risk Factor for Respiratory Viruses

In Germany, researchers at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf studied the first 45 patients who were infected with COVID-19 and admitted to intensive care.

Thirty-five of these patients were men, and ten were women. Seven of the forty-five required oxygen, and thirty-three needed ventilation. Out of the group, nine men and three women died.

The goal was to study the patient's hormone levels during their treatment. On the first day in the ICU, twelve different hormones were sampled, including testosterone and dihydrotestosterone.

When evaluating the male cohort, 68.6% of the men had low levels of testosterone. Interestingly, 60% of the female companion had elevated testosterone levels.

Professor Gulsah Gabriel from the Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology in Hamburg, who was one of the researchers, told of their findings: “Of those male COVID-19 patients who died, the majority had low testosterone levels. Thus, low testosterone levels in men seem to be a risk factor for severe and even fatal disease outcomes in men upon infection with so-called “cytokine-inducing” respiratory viruses.”

He also concluded that testosterone seems to have a “dampening impact” on the cytokine storm as the men who had normal levels of testosterone did show not show signs of a cytokine storm. If a cytokine storm is not induced by the Coronavirus, the patient is more likely to survive the infection.

This explains why more females survived the infection in the ICU, with the majority of the females having high testosterone levels when sampled.

Professor Gabriel also stated, “The current hypothesis is that this “cytokine storm” inhibits steroid synthesis leading to low testosterone levels in men,” says Professor Gabriel.

In conclusion, men with low testosterone levels are more vulnerable to the infection than their peers who have normal levels of the hormone.

Therefore, it is imperative that throughout this pandemic, men need to increase their healthy habits of eating proper nutrition, getting enough sleep, and regular exercise. Not only will such practices increase the health of their heart and lungs, but will naturally increase their testosterone levels as well.

Maintain good health, and do not leave anything to chance! Your health is in your hands.

References

Daily Mail

2016 Study

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