Popular COVID drug dexamethasone may not help women

Dexamethasone is a robust steroid that’s reportedly labored wonders in some individuals who get extreme lung irritation from COVID-19. It was the primary drug that showed promise in saving severely unwell sufferers throughout the summer time of 2020, when COVID-19 remedy was nonetheless type of a seize bag. A typical generic drug, it will possibly value as little as $1 a dose, and it’s become standard of care in lots of hospitals. Oh, and it additionally may…not work on women.

That’s what College of Calgary researchers argue in a paper printed this week in Nature Medicine. Docs have been treating COVID sufferers with steroids like dexamethasone for months, however they admit there’s a information hole explaining why they work after they do, and for whom. The College of Calgary staff was conscious of trials displaying dexamethasone solely helped some males, however not females. So authors Jeff Biernaskie and Bryan Yipp examined sufferers at an Alberta hospital, and found that the remedy lowered male deaths, however had successfully no profit for sick females. They name it an “unsettling commentary.”

They took blood from COVID sufferers handled with dexamethasone, and from different hospital sufferers who didn’t have COVID, for a management group. Sophisticated lab exams utilizing RNA sequencing and bioinformatics analyzed the sufferers’ immune responses, and the staff says they documented one response in males and one other in women. When the physique will get a viral an infection, proteins often called interferons sometimes assault the virus. However towards COVID-19, the interferons decelerate, fueling extra irritation and resulting in worse organ harm. In a press release, Biernaskie stated that “particularly in males, we see an exaggerated neutrophil interferon response that’s considerably restrained when a affected person is given dexamethasone.” However with females, “their neutrophil interferon response was rather more tempered, so dexamethasone had little impact.”


“Males derived profit from the steroids, and the females, at each the mobile degree and on the inhabitants degree, obtained restricted profit,” his colleague Yipp stated. Their conclusion: “At the moment, it’s potential the mainstay remedy for extreme COVID-19 that we’re giving all people is just benefiting half the inhabitants. It is a huge downside.”

Extra analysis is required to unravel why, medically, the drug seems to work in a different way in males and women, they are saying. As for ridding intercourse bias from therapies themselves, their resolution is for researchers to make growing extra personalised medicines a precedence, somewhat than taking a “blanket strategy” to remedy.

Right now, the Biden Administration ordered 10 million programs of one other remedy for COVID-19, Pfizer’s antiviral Paxlovid pill.