WebMD News Brief

Male Baldness May Increase Severe COVID-19 Risk

man looking at thinning hair in mirror

June 15, 2020 -- Research shows bald men are more likely to die after they get the coronavirus than their hairier counterparts.

Since the virus emerged in China, researchers have noticed a higher incidence of death in bald men, reported The Telegraph in England.

Scientists now think it’s possible that androgens — male sex hormones like testosterone — may increase the ability of coronavirus to attack cells. That means treatments for baldness, which suppress these hormones, might fight off the coronavirus, The Telegraph said.

"We really think that baldness is a perfect predictor of severity,” Carlos Wambier, a Brown University professor who had conducted studies on the subject, told The Telegraph. "We think androgens or male hormones are definitely the gateway for the virus to enter our cells.”

The risk factor would be called the "Gabrin sign,” named after Frank Gabrin, a bald doctor who was the physician in the United States to die of COVID-19.

The Telegraph said clinical trials using baldness and prostate cancer drugs are already under way.

Wambier conducted a small study in Spain that found that 79% of the men admitted to three Madrid hospitals with coronavirus were bald. The studies were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The androgen link was also found in a prostate cancer study from Italy. Patients who were given androgen-deprivation therapy were only a quarter as likely to contract COVID-19 as men with the disease on other treatments.

The findings suggest that androgens somehow make the virus more virulent and that this exacerbates the severity of disease in men, scientists said.

Other data shows men overall are more vulnerable to coronavirus than women. A Chinese study from late April found that men are 2.5 times more likely to die of COVID-19.

WebMD Health News Brief Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on June 15, 2020

Sources

The Telegraph. "Bald men at higher risk of severe case of Covid-19, research finds"

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. "Androgenetic Alopecia Present in the Majority of Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients – the “Gabrin sign” “

WebMD.com. “Androgens May Explain Male Vulnerability to COVID-19”

WebMD.com. COVID-19 Continues to Strike Men Harder Than Women

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