A new study conducted by the researchers has found a significant difference in how the immune systems of women and men respond to the coronavirus, representing a potential target for drug intervention.
The researchers led the team at Yale University in the US found a metabolic pathway that is highly interrelated with immune responses only in male patients, who are more likely to suffer severe cases and die of the disease.
The study has been published in the journal Science Signaling that shows male COVID-19 patients were more likely than female patients or healthy control subjects to have raised levels of kynurenic acid, a product of amino acid metabolism.
The researchers said that high levels of kynurenic acid have been linked to several diseases like schizophrenia and HIV-related diseases.
Male patients with severe COVID-19 cases were also more likely to have a high ratio of kynurenic acid to kynurenine, a by-product of the amino acid L-tryptophan, which is used to create the nutrient niacin, they said.
Nicholas Rattray, from the University of Strathclyde, UK said, “It is so vital to understand as much of the altered biochemistry in a disease as possible. By doing so, we maximise the chances of developing an accurate disease-model and potential route to treatment.”
“This research highlights the important role metabolites play in understanding COVID-19 severity and, with further investigation and validation, holds great potential for the development of further understanding of how a person’s different immune status can reflect their response to disease,” Rattray said.
For the study the blood samples from 22 female and 17 male patients were draw by the researchers at Yale New Haven Hospital after confirmation of COVID-19 infection. Then these samples were compared with those from 20 uninfected healthcare providers.
Positively 75 metabolites were identified by the researchers which are molecular products of digestion and cellular processes.
The researchers determined 17 metabolites were associated with COVID-19 infection after adjusting for the patients’ age, body-mass index, sex, and other characteristics.
Further examination showed that there is a strong relationship between high levels of kynurenic acid, as well as high ratios of kynurenic acid to kynurenine in the male immune response and worse patient outcomes.