Does testosterone make the COVID-19 virus worse in men?
New Delhi, Apr 17: Does the COVID-19 pandemic have a bigger impact on men? While there have been a lot of conjecture on this, one theory is that the male sex haromone, testosterone has a dampening effect on the immune system making men more vulnerable to the virus.
Scientific evidence suggests that oestrogen can help improve the immune system and increase immune inflammation. Testosterone on the other hand reduces or dampens the system as a result of which women have less severe infections than men. Men with higher levels of testosterone may have a weaker immunity.
Many studies that describe the suppressing effect of testosterone on the immune system have focused on a single immune function or individual immune cell types. However the immune system is a complex arrangement of many different organs, cells and tissues that direct an elaborate response to infections and it can be broadly sorted into two categories-innate immunity and adaptive immunity.
Innate immunity is rapid and non-specific and it means that it is a frontline defence that is more generalised, targeting any invaders and slowing infection until adaptive immunity is developed.
Adaptive immunity takes a longer time to process and recognise a foreign invader before making specific antibodies to target it. After the threat is gone, the adaptive immune system remembers it, which in turn makes future responses to the same pathogen more efficient, powerful and efficient according to a report in The Conversation.
Males with high testosterone, where energy consuming actions take precedence, adaptive immunity is not necessarily prioritised. A trade off c Ould happen between two immune actions. When one part is highly effective, other functions may be turned down. In a normal situation, the ability to produce a quick response to a local infection or tissue injury by activating the innate immune system is more useful in high testostrone men and this is ue to the evolutionary perspective they are more Riley to experience trauma as a result of aggressive physical competition. Hence it is unlikely that the testosterone would reduce all parts of the immune function equally.
Looking more closely at testosterone over a wide range of immune functions shows it can be immune system suppressing, strengthening and sometimes have no impact on the immune functioning at all. In conclusion, it becomes clear that measuring only certain immune features in relation to testostrone does not truly reflect the overall immune capabilities of a man.