Coronavirus: US scientists look at whether estrogen could help men combat COVID-19

With the male COVID-19 fatality rate in New York alone nearly double that of women, experts are testing whether it's possible estrogen could help men combat the virus.

Researchers say women throughout the world have been less likely to fall gravely ill from the virus and are now testing the theory that estrogen could save men's lives.

Dr Sara Ghandehari from LA's Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre told The New York Times they are testing both estrogen and progesterone to see if they will increase men's immune systems.

"There's a striking difference between the number of men and women in the intensive care unit, and men are clearly doing worse," said Dr Ghandehari, a physician in intensive care and pulmonologist.

The idea is also being studied in New York. Stony Brook University Renaissance School of Medicine associate dean Dr Sharon Nachman said its first patient was enrolled in their trial last week.

"It's totally out of the box, which is how good ideas often start," she told the NYT.

"We may not understand exactly how estrogen works, but maybe we can see how the patient does."

The research in LA will consist of 40 men while the New York trial will enrol 110 people - both men and women who are showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Death and infection tolls from the COVID-19 pandemic spreading around the world have pointed to men being more likely than women to suffer severe or critical complications when contracting the virus. In Italy, an analysis of more than 127,700 COVID-19 cases found that 52.9 percent of all infected people were men and 47.1 percent women.

Among Italy's first 14,860 deaths, almost 68 percent were men.

There are still many outstanding questions around why men are more frequently and harder hit by COVID-19 infection, but health specialists have pointed to several possible factors - one being a women's "aggressive" immune response.

Reuters / Newshub.