Can Estrogen and Other Sex Hormones Help Men Survive Covid-19?

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The gender gap in coronavirus survival became apparent early in the pandemic. Reports from China indicated men were dying at higher rates, but the disparity was attributed to higher smoking rates. But the outcomes were consistent in other countries, with men in Italy dying at higher rates than women, and men in New York City dying at nearly double the rate of women.

Scientists who study sex differences say that both biological differences in immunity, as well as behavioral factors are at play. Men smoke more almost everywhere, they say; men also wash their hands less. While women appear to have more robust immune systems, these experts say, the causes are complex and multifactorial, and hormones are only part of the picture.

Some experts who study sex differences in immunity, however, warned that hormones may fail to be the magic bullet that some are hoping for; even elderly women with Covid-19 are outliving their male peers, and there is a drastic reduction in levels of hormones for women after menopause.

Now, researchers on Stony Brook University at Long Island are testing to see if estrogen could potentially be a treatment for the disease. There is estrogen receptors in the lungs and that’s what the virus does attack. Patients will wear the hrmone 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.


The following estrogen compounds have been marketed in cyclodextrin enabled formulations:

  • Ethinyl estradiol/BCD tablets
  • Ethinyl estradiol/BCD combined with drospirenone tablets
  • Estradiol/RAMEB nasal spray (withdrawn)
  • Progesteron/HPBCD injection
  • Ethinyl estradiol/BCD

Cyclodextrin-containing formulations of sublingual estradiol with improved water solubility and absorption have been developed and studied [Loftsson T, Gudmundsson JA, Arnadóttir RO, Fridriksdóttir H (2003). “Sublingual delivery of 17beta-estradiol from cyclodextrin containing tablets”. Pharmazie. 58 (5): 358–359].


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