Preliminary research officially welcomes male pattern baldness to an increasing list of perplexing COVID-19 aggravators.
Like the many other bizarre correlates uncovered by researchers in the last few months, the mechanisms behind the correlation have little to do with the condition itself, but physiological predispositions that facilitate the penetration of coronavirus material into host cells.
SARS-CoV-2 relies on unique hormonal disruptions to support its replication process. An overproduction of the male sex hormone androgen, for instance, has been recently studied to expedite the binding process.
This very same hormonal surplus just so happens to result in baldness.
Before we review other compounding factors let’s take a look at baldness’ independent association with COVID-19 hospitalizations.
In a recently published preliminary analysis, 79% of confirmed coronavirus patients were bald men.
“Based on the scientific rationale combined with this preliminary observation, we believe investigating the potential association between androgens and COVID‐19 disease severity warrants further merit. If such an association is confirmed, anti‐androgens could be evaluated as a potential treatment for COVID‐19 infection,” the authors concluded in the report.
This observation was also documented in a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology around the same time. In that specific report, bald men were being admitted into health systems for coronavirus at nearly double the rate compared to the rest of the population.
In both studies, a higher level of dihydrotestosterone (DHT, which is a more active testosterone model, and one of the androgen family of male sex hormones) was found to adversely impact the immune system and potentially make it easier for coronavirus proteins to bind to cells.
After transmission, the TMPRSS2 enzyme leaves the SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein, allowing it to subsequently bind to the ACE2 receptor in our cells.
The gene responsible for encoding TMPRSS2 is activated when DHT, binds to the androgen receptor: i.e, the more DHT in the body, the easier the binding process occurs.
On top of these theorized correlations, male coronavirus carriers are more likely to have preexisting conditions, smoke, drink, be obese, and seek medical attention later than female carriers, saying nothing of the latter’s genetic defenses against infection (women have much lower androgen levels in their blood).
The most important find from the new report regards supportive countermeasures.
Although anti-androgen treatments have several side effects in men, including breast enlargement and sexual dysfunction, research has elevated their potential in our ongoing fight against COVID-19.
“The androgen link could go a long way to explaining why men are more susceptible to COVID-19 than women. It also may explain why children younger than ten seem very resistant to COVID-19 because, until puberty, boys, as well as girls, make little androgen,” medical reporter, Beth Daley Writes. The more we know about who is at heightened risk from COVID-19, the better we can target information. The androgen link also opens up an avenue for the discovery of drugs which might mitigate some of the impacts of COVID-19 as it continues to sweep the globe.”