Gender-based disparities in COVID-19 patient outcomes

J Investig Med. 2021 Mar 12:jim-2020-001641. doi: 10.1136/jim-2020-001641. Online ahead of print.


Studies reported to date suggest that men with COVID-19 have more severe disease and worse outcomes when compared with women. The explanation for this finding is not entirely clear. The goal of this study was to compare clinical characteristics, inflammatory biomarkers and clinical outcome between men and women. This retrospective study included patients with COVID-19 admitted to 10 Virginia hospitals from January 1, 2020, to June 15, 2020. Demographic data, comorbidities, and inflammatory markers, including C reactive protein (CRP), D-dimer, ferritin, and the neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio, as well as patient outcomes, were compared between men and women. During the study period, 701 patients with PCR-confirmed COVID-19 infection were admitted. The patient's mean age was 61±17 years. There were 370 men (52.8%). There was no difference in age, racial distribution, and comorbidities in the male patients compared with the female patients. However, both the baseline and peak levels of CRP and ferritin were significantly higher in men as compared with women. While the baseline D-dimer was similar between the sexes, men had a significantly higher maximal D-dimer. Men had evidence of greater disease severity, with a significantly greater admission to the intensive care unit and borderline higher hospital mortality. Our study supports the observation that COVID-19 causes more severe disease in men. The greater disease severity in men was not due to the effect of age or comorbidities; however, in keeping with experimental studies, men had evidence of a heightened inflammatory response, likely contributing to disease severity.

Keywords: COVID-19; biomarkers; cytokines; ferritins.