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Sex and gender differences in COVID testing, hospital admission, presentation, and drivers of severe outcomes in the DC/Maryland region

By Eileen P. Scully, Grant Schumock, Martina Fu, Guido Massaccesi, John Muschelli, Joshua Betz, Eili Y. Klein, Natalie E. West, Matthew L Robinson, Brian T. Garibaldi, Karen Bandeen- Roche, Scott Zeger, Sabra L Klein, Amita Gupta

Posted 07 Apr 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.05.21253827

Background. Rates of severe illness and mortality from SARS-CoV-2 are greater for males, but the mechanisms for this difference are unclear. Understanding the differences in outcomes between males and females across the age spectrum will guide both public health and biomedical interventions. Methods. Retrospective cohort analysis of SARS-CoV-2 testing and admission data in a health system. Patient-level data were assessed with descriptive statistics and logistic regression modeling was used to identify features associated with increased male risk of severe outcomes. Results. In 213,175 SARS-CoV-2 tests, despite similar positivity rates (8.2%F vs 8.9%M), males were more frequently hospitalized (28%F vs 33%M). Of 2,626 hospitalized individuals, females had less severe presenting respiratory parameters and males had more fever. Comorbidity burden was similar, but with differences in specific conditions. Medications relevant for SARS-CoV-2 were used at similar frequency except tocilizumab (M>F). Males had higher inflammatory lab values. In a logistic regression model, male sex was associated with a higher risk of severe outcomes at 24 hours (odds ratio (OR) 3.01, 95%CI 1.75, 5.18) and at peak status (OR 2.58, 95%CI 1.78,3.74) among 18-49 year-olds. Block-wise addition of potential explanatory variables demonstrated that only the inflammatory labs substantially modified the OR associated with male sex across all ages. Conclusion. Higher levels of clinical inflammatory labs are the only features that are associated with the heightened risk of severe outcomes and death for males in COVID-19.

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