Speed Reads

Solving COVID

The gender gap in coronavirus survival has scientists contemplating treating men with female sex hormones

Because male coronavirus patients are getting severely ill and dying at higher rates from COVID-19 than women, some scientists think estrogen and other female sex hormones may hold the key for treatment. So, doctors on Long Island in New York and in the Los Angeles area are launching trials of two different hormones (estrogen and progesterone, respectively) to see if there's any truth to the hypothesis, The New York Times reports.

It's not all pure speculation — one of the more telling signs is that pregnant women, who are usually immunocompromised, tend to have mild COVID-19 cases. Lo and behold, they have high levels of estrogen and progesterone. Research has also shown estrogen may have an effect on a protein the coronavirus uses on the surface of cells as an entry route. The hormone has been able to reduce the protein expression in rat kidneys, which certainly does not mean its success in humans is a given, but does signal effectiveness is at least possible.

Not everyone is convinced that hormones, while possibly helpful, are a "silver bullet," the Times reports. That's because elderly women are surviving at much higher rates than elderly men, as well, despite a drastic reduction in hormone levels for women after menopause. The doubters believe the difference may be genetic, just not solely related to hormones. It could also boil down to something more simple, like lower smoking rates among women, or the fact they wash their hands more, per the Times.

Still, the hormones in the trials are considered safe, so there seems little reason to nix the idea. Read more at The New York Times.