High Androgen Levels Increase Threat of Covid

Bald men are more likely to experience strong coronavirus symptoms following diagnosis. Learn why this is and what can be done.

New evidence suggests that bald men may have a higher risk of developing severe coronavirus symptoms. Male pattern baldness is a common condition which can begin at any age. Typically, it takes men 15-20 years to lose all of their hair completely, with about two thirds of men either bald or experiencing a balding pattern by the age of 60. Real hair wigs can be worn by both men and women who suffer from balding, and some will also use drug treatments to combat the condition. However, the risk of developing severe Covid-19 symptoms is not something that can be overcome as easily.

The Gabrin Sign

Dr Frank Gabrin, who was bald, was the first US physician to die of Covid-19. The research between baldness and Covid-19 is thought to be so significant, that the risk factor is now known as the ‘Gabrin sign’. In the UK, Public Health England have revealed that men who are of working age, are more than twice as likely to die in comparison to women, if they are diagnosed with Covid-19.

Male Sex Hormones

Scientists have been scrabbling to determine exactly why men are more at risk, and have previously cited lifestyle and smoking habits as well as immune system differences between the sexes. However, the latest research suggests that androgens, or male sex hormones, could have a large part to play in the severity of symptoms. Whereas large quantities of androgens can be responsible for the loss of hair, they also seem to be linked to the capacity of Covid-19 in attacking the cells. The good news here is androgens can be suppressed, as they are in both hair loss therapy as well as in treating conditions such as prostate cancer.

Research Trials

Professor Wambier of Brown University has been carrying out small research studies in Spain to prove that an unusually high number of bald men were admitted to hospital after testing positive for Covid-19. Across three hospitals in Madrid, 79% of Covid patients were bald. To compare, a study of similarly aged, but healthy men to those found in the hospital found that only around 31-53% were bald. A similar trend could be found when looking at female pattern baldness and coronavirus hospital admission rates.

Treatment Options

An Italian piece of research which examined the prospects of 9,280 prostate cancer patients, also found that those using androgen-deprivation therapy were significantly less likely to contract coronavirus in comparison to those who were using other treatments. By using drugs which reduce their testosterone levels, cells are protected from the effect of Covid-19. To cause the infection, coronaviruses rely on a spike protein which attaches to the cell’s membrane – this is then activated by an enzyme which is thought to be TMPRSS2. Scientists are now tasked with exploring whether the enzyme reacts similarly in the lungs, where the coronavirus thrives, as it does in the prostate. A variety of clinical studies are now being started to investigate the possible treatment options.