Till January 2021, 70% men and 30% women had succumbed to the infection in the state. During the current surge in Covid-19 cases, which roughly began around the start of February this year, the analysis showed 28% women and 72% men died due to Covid till March 15, 2021.
A senior state health department official told TOI: “The analysis was undertaken to find out whether age group patterns or sex differences have changed during the current upsurge in comparison to trends observed last year. There aren’t any significant changes in these parameters.”
Data showed there were roughly 50,666 Covid mortalities from March 2020 till January 2021 in Maharashtra and 2,243 more from February 1, 2021, till March 15, 2021.
Apart from the presence of a higher number of comorbidities and greater propensity to step out for work or social life in the case of men, disease specialists said biological factors appear to be at play here as well.
Piyush Chaudhari, infectious diseases specialist at Jehangir Hospital, Pune, told TOI: “A relatively milder disease in females compared to males can be explained by higher interferons and Interleukin 10 production in females, among such other biological factors. A virus-infected cell releases interferons causing nearby cells to heighten their anti-viral defenses while Interleukin-10 is an essential immunosuppressive cytokine, with the ability to resolve inflammation and promote wound repair.”
He said estrogen, a female hormone, could also be at play as it can lower the activity of harmful pathways (as well as increase that of useful pathways) associated with inflammation, vascular permeability and lung oedema.
International studies over the past year have pointed to this trend. A meta-analysis of 31,11,714 reported global cases by the Centre for Rheumatology Research, UCL, London, had said last December that while there was no difference in the proportion of males and females with confirmed Covid-19, male patients had almost three times the odds of requiring intensive treatment unit and higher odds of death as compared to females.
Another US study from Houston, based on data from electronic medical records, published earlier this year said among hospitalised patients, males were more likely to have complications, require ICU admission and mechanical ventilation, and had higher mortality than females, independent of age.