Dr. Carlos Wambier, an assistant professor of dermatology and clinician educator at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, has proposed that male hormones that cause baldness are also linked to severe COVID-19 symptoms.
If his theory is correct, that could also explain why COVID-19 fatalities are higher among men than women. An April analysis by the Washington Post of data from 13 US states found that men who have COVID-19 are more likely to die than women who catch SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.
In an April 7 news release, Wambier explained that excess activation of androgens, the hormones that regulate the development and maintenance of what are considered male characteristics, may be “linked to the vulnerability of patients to SARS-CoV-2.”
According to Wambier, this is because “the first step to the virus’s entry into a cell is a ‘bite’ from a protease enzyme that is produced only by action of androgen hormones.”
Wambier and other researchers on his team have already carried out two studies to test their hypothesis. One of the studies, which was published in the American Academy of Dermatology Journal in May, found that almost 80% of 122 men who were COVID-19 positive and were admitted to three hospitals in Madrid, Spain, were bald.
Another study that was published in April in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that of 41 male COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Spain, 29 were bald.
The link between baldness and the severity of COVID-19 is now being referred to as the “Gabrin Sign,” after bald, 60-year-old emergency room doctor Frank Gabrin, who died in New York City in late March from COVID-19.
If the link between androgens and COVID-19 is proven, antiandrogen drugs may be able to reduce the severity of the respiratory illness, Wambier pointed out.
Antiandrogens, which are also known as testosterone blockers, are a class of drugs that block androgen receptors and then inhibit or suppress androgen production.