Older Men Produce Fewer T-Cells Than Older Women

(p. A7) The coronavirus may infect anyone, young or old, but older men are up to twice as likely to become severely sick and to die as women of the same age.

Why? The first study to look at immune response to the coronavirus by sex has turned up a clue: Men produce a weaker immune response to the virus than do women, the researchers concluded.

The findings, published on Wednesday [Aug. 26, 2020] in Nature, suggest that men, particularly those over age 60, may need to depend more on vaccines to protect against the infection.

“Natural infection is clearly failing” to spark adequate immune responses in men, said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University who led the work.

. . .

Over all, the scientists found, the women’s bodies produced more so-called T cells, which can kill virus-infected cells and stop the infection from spreading.

Men showed much weaker activation of T cells, and that lag was linked to how sick the men became. The older the men, the weaker their T cell responses.

“When they age, they lose their ability to stimulate T cells,” Dr. Iwasaki said. “If you look at the ones that really failed to make T cells, they were the ones who did worse with disease.”

For the full story, see:

Apoorva Mandavilli. “New Clue on Why Men Are Hit Harder.” The New York Times (Thursday, August 27, 2020): A7.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Aug. 27 [sic], 2020, and has the title “Why Does the Coronavirus Hit Men Harder? A New Clue.”)

The paper in Nature discussed above is:

Takahashi, Takehiro, Mallory K. Ellingson, Patrick Wong, Benjamin Israelow, Carolina Lucas, Jon Klein, Julio Silva, Tianyang Mao, Ji Eun Oh, Maria Tokuyama, Peiwen Lu, Arvind Venkataraman, Annsea Park, Feimei Liu, Amit Meir, Jonathan Sun, Eric Y. Wang, Arnau Casanovas-Massana, Anne L. Wyllie, Chantal B. F. Vogels, Rebecca Earnest, Sarah Lapidus, Isabel M. Ott, Adam J. Moore, Kelly Anastasio, Michael H. Askenase, Maria Batsu, Hannah Beatty, Santos Bermejo, Sean Bickerton, Kristina Brower, Molly L. Bucklin, Staci Cahill, Melissa Campbell, Yiyun Cao, Edward Courchaine, Rupak Datta, Giuseppe DeIuliis, Bertie Geng, Laura Glick, Ryan Handoko, Chaney Kalinich, William Khoury-Hanold, Daniel Kim, Lynda Knaggs, Maxine Kuang, Eriko Kudo, Joseph Lim, Melissa Linehan, Alice Lu-Culligan, Amyn A. Malik, Anjelica Martin, Irene Matos, David McDonald, Maksym Minasyan, Subhasis Mohanty, M. Catherine Muenker, Nida Naushad, Allison Nelson, Jessica Nouws, Marcella Nunez-Smith, Abeer Obaid, Isabel Ott, Hong-Jai Park, Xiaohua Peng, Mary Petrone, Sarah Prophet, Harold Rahming, Tyler Rice, Kadi-Ann Rose, Lorenzo Sewanan, Lokesh Sharma, Denise Shepard, Erin Silva, Michael Simonov, Mikhail Smolgovsky, Eric Song, Nicole Sonnert, Yvette Strong, Codruta Todeasa, Jordan Valdez, Sofia Velazquez, Pavithra Vijayakumar, Haowei Wang, Annie Watkins, Elizabeth B. White, Yexin Yang, Albert Shaw, John B. Fournier, Camila D. Odio, Shelli Farhadian, Charles Dela Cruz, Nathan D. Grubaugh, Wade L. Schulz, Aaron M. Ring, Albert I. Ko, Saad B. Omer, Akiko Iwasaki, and Impact research team Yale. “Sex Differences in Immune Responses That Underlie Covid-19 Disease Outcomes.” Nature (published online in advance of print Aug. 26, 2020). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2700-3

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