Men’s blood has higher levels than women’s of a key enzyme used by the new coronavirus to infect cells, the results of a big European study showed on Monday — a finding which may help explain why men are more vulnerable to infection with COVID-19.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is found in the heart, kidneys and other organs. In COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, it is thought to play a role in how the infection progresses into the lungs.
The study, published in the European Heart Journal, also found that widely-prescribed drugs called ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) did not lead to higher ACE2 concentrations and should therefore not increase the COVID-19 risk for people taking them.
ACE inhibitors and ARBs are widely prescribed to patients with congestive heart failure, diabetes or kidney disease. The drugs account for billions of dollars in prescription sales worldwide.
“Our findings do not support the discontinuation of these drugs in COVID-19 patients,” said Adriaan Voors, a professor of cardiology at the University Medical Center (UMC) Groningen in The Netherlands, who co-led the study.
The COVID-19 pandemic has infected more than 4 million people worldwide and killed almost 277,000, according to a tally. Death and infection tolls point to men being more likely than women to contract the disease and to suffer severe or critical complications if they do.