A combination of factors such as genetics, better hygiene practices and relatively lower levels of smoking and drinking mean that fewer women are contracting COVID-19 than men, said Professor Bushra Jamil, an infectious diseases specialist at AKU.
Dr Jamil was speaking at an international webinar titled ‘Women and COVID 19: Correlation and Causation’, focused on the active role of women in managing the pandemic. Organised by Dr Lubna Kamani, a gastroenterologist and lecturer in AKU’s department of medicine, the webinar had speakers and panelists from Malaysia, Australia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Thailand and United States.
Dr Kamani began the seminar with insights into how COVID-19 is being managed around the world. While the disease is affecting all genders, there is more mortality in men in comparison to women even through frontline nursing staff are mostly women.
Since the coronavirus disease outbreak in Wuhan, China, in 2019 numerous studies have been conducted around the world that have found a disproportionate effect on men. From China to South Korea to Italy and France and even Pakistan, the virus has a higher mortality among men as compared to women.
Research has revealed that women’s bodies are better at fighting off infections owing to the hormones in their systems and the two X chromosomes in the genes. Many genes on the X chromosomes are known to regulate immune functions in the body. The presence of two Xs in females as opposed to one in males determines the different immune responses in both sexes.
“The innate immune system in females results in faster pathogen and vaccine response making them stronger and adaptive to diseases,” said Professor Jamil.
On the subject of COVID-19’s effects on pregnant women, the speakers maintained that although intrauterine transmission is unlikely, in some cases newborns contracted the disease immediately after birth. Extra care should be practiced by mothers, experts added.
Dr Kamani also touched on the role of women as frontline healthcare workers around the world as doctors and nurses. Experts also cited examples of leadership by women in New Zealand, Germany and India’s state of Kerala where better planning and precautions against COVID-19 have resulted in fewer mortalities and infections.
Professor Eun Young (Ann) Kim, Korea, Dr Simone Guaraldi, Brazil, Dr Majidah Abdulfattah Bukhari, Saudi Arabia, Dr Sharmila Sachithanandan, Malaysia, Dr Nonthalee, Thailand, and Dr Amrita Sethi, USA, also spoke on the various roles played by women in tackling the pandemic.
The session was moderated by Dr Nazish Butt, a consultant in AKU’s department of medicine. The webinar was organised by Getz Pharma.