MERSIN, Turkey — It’s been said time and time again during this pandemic that men seem to be at a greater risk of severe COVID symptoms than women. However, scientists have been at a loss as to why this is the case. Now, for the first time ever, a new study finds COVID-19 may in actually be draining men’s testosterone levels.
The study was conducted at the University of Mersin and the Mersin City Education And Research Hospital. Researchers say that as a male patient’s baseline testosterone levels (taken upon hospital admission) steadily decreases, their chances of being placed in ICU care increases. Moreover, over half of studied male patients had lower than average testosterone levels.
This isn’t the first time that low testosterone levels are identified as a risk factor for severe coronavirus symptoms. It is, however, the first piece of research to find that a COVID-19 infection actively depletes a man’s testosterone levels.
COVID impact on testosterone may solve mystery
While nothing is confirmed just yet, the study’s authors are optimistic they’ve uncovered the answer to why men are experiencing severe symptoms in greater numbers than women. Also, this discovery opens the door for testosterone-based coronavirus treatment approaches.
“Testosterone is associated with the immune system of respiratory organs, and low levels of testosterone might increase the risk of respiratory infections. Low testosterone is also associated with infection-related hospitalization and all-cause mortality in male in ICU patients, so testosterone treatment may also have benefits beyond improving outcomes for COVID-19,” explains lead study author Selahittin Çayan, Professor of Urology, in a release.
“In our study, the mean total testosterone decreased, as the severity of the COVID-19 increased. The mean total testosterone level was significantly lower in the ICU group than in the asymptomatic group. In addition, the mean total testosterone level was significantly lower in the ICU group than in the Intermediate Care Unit group. The mean serum follicle stimulating hormone level was significantly higher in the ICU group than in the asymptomatic group,” he continues.
Even asymptomatic patients shows signs
In all, the study includes data from 438 participants. All tested positive for COVID-19 and 232 were men.
Hypogonadism, a condition meaning one’s body doesn’t produce enough testosterone was seen in a total of 113 (51.1%) male patients. A total of 11 male patients passed away, as well as seven female patients.
“The patients who died, had significantly lower mean total testosterone than the patients who were alive. However, even 65.2% of the 46 male patients who were asymptomatic had a loss of loss of libido,” professor Çayan says.
“It could be recommended that at the time of COVID-19 diagnosis, testosterone levels are also tested. In men with low levels of sex hormones who test positive for COVID-19, testosterone treatment could improve their prognosis. More research is needed on this,” professor Çayan concludes.
The study is published in The Aging Male.