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Severity of COVID-19 in men linked to low testosterone

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A NEW study, published in JAMA Network, Open, indicates that men with low testosterone levels are more likely to have more serious COVID-19 symptoms.

  Previous analyses found that men tend to develop more severe COVID-19 compared with women, but it wasn’t clear why. On average, men produce much higher levels of testosterone than women do.

  One theory held that high levels of testosterone may cause men to fare worse than women with COVID-19, according to a statement. But the new study’s findings refute that hypothesis.

  To understand the relationship between testosterone and COVID-19 severity, the researchers gathered blood samples from 90 men and 62 women who visited Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis with symptoms of COVID-19 and who subsequently tested positive for the virus.

  The researchers measured several hormones in blood samples from 90 men and 62 women who came to Barnes-Jewish Hospital with symptoms of COVID-19 and who had confirmed cases of the illness.

  For the 143 patients who were admitted to the hospital, the researchers measured hormone levels again at days 3, 7, 14 and 28, as long as the patients remained hospitalized over these time frames. In addition to testosterone, the investigators measured levels of estradiol, a form of estrogen produced by the body, and IGF-1, an important growth hormone that is similar to insulin and plays a role in maintaining muscle mass.

  Among women, the researchers found no correlation between levels of any hormone and disease severity. Among men, only testosterone levels were linked to COVID-19 severity. A blood testosterone level of 250 nanograms per deciliter or less is considered low testosterone in adult men. At hospital admission, men with severe COVID-19 had average testosterone levels of 53 nanograms per deciliter; men with less severe disease had average levels of 151 nanograms per deciliter. By day three, the average testosterone level of the most severely ill men was only 19 nanograms per deciliter.

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