STONY BROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Men are at a higher risk than women of dying from COVID-19.
Now, researchers on Long Island are testing to see if estrogen could potentially be a treatment for the disease, CBS2's Ali Bauman reported Monday.
"Infection rate is similar, but severity of symptoms is much higher in men," said Dr. Antonios Gasparis, a professor of surgery at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.
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Last month, Gasparis started noticing there were a lot more young men with coronavirus in the Intensive Care Unit than young women.
"We do know females tend to have a better immune response, but the difference was so dramatic that I thought maybe there is a hormonal reason for this," Gasparis said.
That idea sparked a new estrogen trial, which started Friday at Stony Brook. Dr. Sharon Nachman is lead investigator on the study. She is now administering a low-dose estrogen patch to men over the age of 18 and women over the age of 55 who have tested positive.
"We hope to have an answer of is this a viable choice for treatment?" Nachman said.
"There is estrogen receptors in the lungs and that's what the virus does attack," Gasparis added.
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Patients will wear the patch for seven days. Each one contains 1/20th the amount of estrogen in pregnant women, and the doctors said the male ego should not be concerned.
"There's no real feminizing effect of one week of estrogen," Nachman said.
The researchers said another interesting observation is pregnant women with coronavirus have been faring far better than their counterparts during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.
"We saw huge quantities of pregnant women coming into the hospital with pneumonia. We're seeing nothing like those rates at all, which, again, argues for estrogen being part of the answer for protection," Nachman said.
But a big warning comes with this story: do not try this at home.
"People should be cautious and not go out to get their own estrogen patch," Nachman said.
The trial is expected to last through the fall.
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