Does the Covid (in its classic form or in its long form) affect men and women in the same way? To answer this question, American researchers analyzed data from hundreds of studies produced since the start of the pandemic. They confirm that sex would indeed be a differentiating factor.
More than 600,000 articles, covering a total of nearly 1.4 million people: this is the initial basis for the work of the researchers of the Johnson & Johnson Office of the Chief Medical Officer Health of Women Team, a unit of the American pharmaceutical giant dedicated to women’s health. Their objective: to verify whether the “sex” variable plays a role in the early symptoms of Covid, and in those of long Covid.
The researchers therefore relied on the thousands of publications published between December 2019 and August 2020 on the one hand, and January 2020 and June 2021 on the other. They excluded most of them: the vast majority of these studies did not provide enough detailed information on symptoms and sequelae disaggregated by sex. alone 35 studies meeting the selection criteria were finally selected.
22% increased risk of long Covid for women
What do they show? That when it comes to early symptoms (4 weeks after infection), women were significantly more likely to be affected by mood disorders (depression), musculoskeletal and respiratory disorders; the risk of kidney damage was more relevant to men.
The sequelae of long Covid (beyond 4 weeks after infection) are also not the same according to gender: ENT disorders, mood, neurological, skin, gastrointestinal, rheumatological and fatigue disorders for women, kidney and endocrine disorders for men. The risk of developing long Covid syndrome is finally 22% higher in women than in men.
Difference in immune functioning
For the researchers, these specificities are very probably linked to the difference in the functioning of the immune system of men and women. In the review Current Medical Research and Opinion who published their work, they state: “Women develop faster and more robust innate and adaptive immune responses, which may protect them from initial infection and its severity. However, this same difference may make women more vulnerable to prolonged autoimmune disease.”
Because of this known and identified difference, researchers regret the scarcity of studies related to Covid that take the gender variable into account. Yet crucial data, in order to better adapt prevention, identification and treatment.