Why older men may hold the key to beating COVID

US President Donald Trump has made some pretty bold and spurious claims since he beat COVID-19, but can you imagine what he would tweet if his blood was able to help defeat the virus?

A new study suggests that older men who have beaten the coronavirus produce the strongest antibody responses and may be the best candidates for donating plasma for treating COVID-19 patients.

Researchers from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that as well as older men, those who had more severe cases of COVID-19 were also likely to have high levels of antibodies that can protect against the disease.

The findings suggest that older males who have recovered from COVID-19 after being hospitalised are the best candidates for donating plasma.

Doctors have been using plasma (the part of blood that contains antibodies) from recovered COVID-19 patients to treat those who currently have the virus and as a possible preventative measure.

“We propose that sex, age, and severity of disease should be used to guide the selection of donors for convalescent plasma transfer studies, because we found that these were significant patient characteristics that not only predicted the amount of antibody but the quality of that antibody,” explained the study’s lead author Professor Sabra Klein.

The researchers tested the blood of 126 COVID-19 survivors and found high variability in their antibody levels and the ability of those antibodies to neutralise the virus.

Three factors were associated with stronger antibody responses: having been sick enough with COVID-19 to be hospitalised, being older and being male.

“We know that the magnitude of antibody responses correlates with disease severity in other infectious diseases, such as active tuberculosis,” Prof. Klein explained.

Older age and male sex, which prior studies in both China and Europe have shown are associated with more severe COVID-19, were also associated with stronger antibody responses, though these links were weaker than for hospitalisation status.

Last month, however, a US study found that age was not the dominant factor in patients likely to suffer the worst COVID-19 symptoms, but rather chronic conditions associated with ageing.

That study found that people with the virus were six times more likely to be hospitalised if they had underlying health conditions than those without health conditions.

While age is still a determining factor when it comes to COVID-19 morbidity, healthy older people are more likely to experience milder symptoms, according to that research.

Are you an older male? Do you donate blood?

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Written by Ben

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