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Women more likely to suffer from Long Covid – US study

Long Covid is likely to affect women far worse than men, a new study has shown.

The study, published in peer-reviewed journal Current Medical Research and Opinion, found women were significantly more likely to suffer from Long Covid than men.

The study found women with Long Covid were presenting symptoms including ear, nose, and throat issues; mood, neurological, skin, gastrointestinal and rheumatological disorders; as well as fatigue.
Photo: Unsplash / Engin Akyurt

Conducted by researchers from the Johnson & Johnson Office of the Chief Medical Officer health of women team in the US, the study analysed data from about 1.3 million patients.

It found women with Long Covid were presenting with a variety of symptoms including ear, nose, and throat issues; mood, neurological, skin, gastrointestinal and rheumatological disorders; as well as fatigue.

On the other hand, men were more likely to experience endocrine disorders such as diabetes and kidney disorders.

It concluded that women were 22 percent more likely to suffer from long Covid than men, and would experience substantially different symptoms to men.

People suffering from Long Covid usually battle symptoms longer than four weeks after the initial infection from the coronavirus, with some experiencing it for many months after.

“Differences in immune system function between females and males could be an important driver of sex differences in Long Covid syndrome. Females mount more rapid and robust innate and adaptive immune responses, which can protect them from initial infection and severity. However, this same difference can render females more vulnerable to prolonged autoimmune-related diseases,” the authors explained.

The paper did note that women in certain professions, such as nursing and education, may be at greater risk of catching the virus. “There may be disparities in access to care based on gender that could affect the natural history of the disease, leading to more complications and sequela.”

The authors said there were several studies that examined sex differences in hospitalisation, ICU admission, ventilation support, and mortality.

However, the research on the specific conditions that are caused by the virus, and its long-term damage to the body, had been understudied in regards to sex.

“Sex differences in outcomes have been reported during previous coronavirus outbreaks,” authors add.

“Therefore, differences in outcomes between females and males infected with SARS-CoV-2 could have been anticipated. Unfortunately, most studies did not evaluate or report granular data by sex, which limited sex-specific clinical insights that may be impacting treatment.”

Researchers restricted their search of academic papers to those published between December 2019 and August 2020 for Covid-19 and between January 2020 and June 2021 for Long Covid syndrome. The total sample size spanning articles reviewed amounted to 1,393,355 unique individuals.

They said only 35 of the 640,634 total articles in the literature provided sex disaggregated data in sufficient detail about symptoms and sequalae of Covid-19 disease to understand how women and men experienced the disease differently.

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