COVID-19 Daily: Male Vulnerability, Semen Study

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MAY 07, 2020 -- Here are the coronavirus stories Medscape's editors around the globe think you need to know about today:

Male Vulnerability Explained?

Researchers in Italy have made a fortuitous discovery that may explain why men are more likely to have severe outcomes in COVID-19 than are women. The potential explanation? Androgen.

While treating patients with prostate cancer using androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), the investigators observed that these men were much less likely to become infected with and die from COVID-19 than other groups, including patients with other cancer types.

The paper that, researchers say, is the first to suggest a link between ADT and COVID-19 was published online May 7 in Annals of Oncology.

The authors hypothesized that "androgen levels can facilitate coronavirus infections and increase the severity of symptoms, as has been seen in male patients," lead researcher Andrea Alimonti, MD, PhD, Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano, Switzerland, told Medscape Medical News.

Given that the effects of androgen receptor antagonists are reversible, the researchers suggest they could be used for a short time in patients infected with COVID-19.

Semen Study "Shy on Details"

COVID-19 may be present in the semen of patients with COVID-19, both those recovering and those with acute disease, according to results of a small study published online in JAMA Network Open.

However, several experts caution the researchers only tested for viral components and that the findings do not demonstrate infectivity.

"I am not aware of any reports of infection transmitting sexually, so the risk here, even if the study is verified at a larger scale, is very limited," said Ian Jones, PhD, professor of virology, University of Reading, United Kingdom.

Other experts note that the published article is short on information about methodology and context.

"I'm not saying they are wrong, but they are shy on details," Maureen Ferran, PhD, associate professor of biology, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, told Medscape Medical News.

The First 100 Days of COVID-19

Just over 100 days after the US saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on January 20, the numbers are alarming, with 1.2 million confirmed cases and more than 70,000 deaths — and because testing is so limited, experts say the real tally is actually much higher, WebMD Health News reports.


"We're not doing well at all," said Jeffrey Shaman, PhD, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, who has led work to model national projections. "We had our first confirmed case the same day as South Korea. We have six times as many people, but 100 times as many cases."

Even though some states have been relaxing social-distancing restrictions, not one has met federal guidelines for being able to do so, noted Caitlin Rivers, PhD, a researcher from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday.

CRISPR-Based COVID-19 Test

The US Food and Drug Administration has granted Emergency Use Authorization of a rapid COVID-19 test kit that uses CRISPR technology, Sherlock Biosciences has announced.

The Specific High-sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter Unlocking (SHERLOCK) test kit works by programming a CRISPR molecule to detect the presence of a specific genetic signature for SARS-CoV-2 in a nasal swab, nasopharyngeal swab, oropharyngeal swab, or bronchoalveolar lavage specimen. When the signature is found, the CRISPR enzyme is activated and releases a detectable signal.

How Has Your Work Changed During the Pandemic?

Healthcare workers around the world have shared their stories with Medscape of practicing outside of their specialties to help their colleagues care for COVID-19 patients. Let us know about your experience through our poll and/or email us at [email protected].

Disorders of Taste and Smell

Loss of taste or smell has now been added by the World Health Organization to its list of less common COVID-19 symptoms. As evidence piles up documenting a sudden loss of smell and/or taste as a presenting symptom of COVID-19, the call to screen for these phenomena is growing. Read Medscape's reference article on Disorders of Taste and Smell.

In Memoriam

As frontline healthcare workers care for patients with COVID-19, they commit themselves to difficult, draining work and put themselves at risk of infection. More than 1000 throughout the world have died.

Medscape has published a memorial list to commemorate them. We will continue updating this list as, sadly, needed. Please help us ensure this list is complete by submitting names with an age, profession or specialty, and location through this form.

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