Even the Main Stream Media concedes the fact that there are sex differences in susceptibility to coronavirus a.k.a. Covid-19, with males more likely to die of it than females [COVID-19: the gendered impacts of the outbreak, by Clare Wenham et al., The Lancet, 2020]. And, although our race-denying Ruling Class refuses to release the data, it seems increasingly clear that there are also race and ethnic differences. But could there be race and ethnic differences in the size of the sex differences? Could women from one ethnic group be extremely unlikely to die of Covid-19 compared to their male co-ethnics, while women of another race are just marginally less likely? A new study from China, admittedly not yet peer-reviewed, suggests that this may, indeed, be the case [Individual Variation of the SARS-CoV2 Receptor ACE2 Gene Expression and Regulation, by Jiawei Chen et al., Preprints, 2020].
When the coronavirus epidemic started, I hypothesized—that is, I formulated a theory based on the available scientific evidence—that it might be substantially limited to East Asians. Indeed, I wrote that “if I wanted to tempt fate” then I’d predict that, like the 2003 SARS outbreak, it would be more or less exclusive to East Asians (although this fact about SARS is apparently still not widely known).
But now more evidence has come in, and it turns out that Covid-19 is more akin to Spanish Flu than SARS. People of all races and ethnicities can catch it and die of it, even some from races that are generally strongly resistant. But Covid-19 certainly impact some groups more than others, consistent with evidence of genetic differences between them and their adaptation to different environments.
This makes sense, of course, because, as Richard Lynn has repeatedly argued, for example in his 2015 book Race Differences in Intelligence, “races” are defined as “breeding populations” separated by geography for sufficient time to display average differences in gene frequencies.
Race differences can be extremely complex. One of them is race differences in the size of sex differences. The term “sexual dimorphism” refers to males being physically different from females, for example being bigger than them. This is found in all races, but there are race differences in its extent. For example, Sub-Saharan Africans are less sexually dimorphic than East Asians [Sexual Dimorphism in Body Composition Across Human Populations, by Jonathan Wells, American Journal of Human Biology, July-August 2012].
There is some evidence that there are race differences in personality sexual dimorphism. Females are more altruistic that males, but the differences in bigger in Western populations [Enduring dispositions in adult males, by P. Costa & D. Arenberg, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1980].
So it’s entirely possible for there to be race differences in the magnitude of sex differences in susceptibility to diseases, including Covid-19.
According to the new Chinese study, Covid-19 uses “angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 ACE2 as its host cell receptor,” as did SARS. The authors explain that
Epidemiology studies found different sex and age groups have different susceptibility to infection, and very skewed severity and mortality of the virus infection, with male, old age, and comorbidity being the most inflicted.
Using a database with “thousands” of samples in it, the Chinese scientists found
…significantly higher expression [of ACE2] in Asian females compared to males and other ethnic groups, an age-dependent ACE2 expression decrease and a highly significant decrease in type II diabetic patients. Consistently, the most significant expression quantitative loci (eQTLs) contributing to high ACE2 expression are close to 100% in East Asians, >30% higher than other ethnic groups.
So this Chinese study demonstrates, yet again, that races differ, for genetic reasons, in their susceptibility to Covid-19—and that “East Asians” (the Politically Correct term for Orientals) are likely to be particularly susceptible.
However, it also implies that, among East Asians, ACE2 is more common in women and, specifically, in women who are not elderly, because the expression of ACE2 decreases with age.
This finding would potentially help to make sense of some very strange observations about race differences in the prevalence and seriousness of the virus.
Thus an opinion piece on CNN [Why South Korea has so few coronavirus deaths while Italy has so many, by Kent Sepkowitz, CNN, March 17, 2020] summarizes, perhaps unwittingly, this crucial race difference in the starkest terms. South Korea, Sepkowitz explains, has a Covid-19 mortality rate of 0.6%. Italy has a mortality rate of about 6%. However, and this is the key difference, in Italy, 90% of deaths from Covid-19 have been people over the age of 70. In South Korea, the mortality distribution is, seemingly, far less skewed towards the elderly. Based on reported cases, rather than mortality, the biggest-impacted group are Koreans in their 20s, who constitute 30% of diagnosed cases. And in South Korea, 62% of diagnosed cases have been found in women.
As Sepkowitz summarizes:
South Korea has an outbreak among youngish, non-smoking women, whereas Italy's disease is occurring among the old and the very old, many of whom are smokers.
The disease also seems to disproportionately impact men in Western countries, as Clare Wenham et al. reported in their recent piece in The Lancet cited above.
These fascinating observations are in line with the findings of the research article by the Chinese. We can reasonably compare South Korea and Italy, in a way we that cannot really compare Italy and China. South Korea and Italy, after all, are both fully developed countries with developed health services and relatively honest governments.
The Chinese research would predict that, compared to Italy, Covid-19 in Korea should disproportionately impact females. And this is what we find. It should also, specifically, be a problem for younger females. This is, again, what appears to be the case.
By contrast, in Italy, where the expression of ACE2 is low and where there is no evidence of a large sex difference in its expression, then we would expect other factors to be far more relevant, including age and the fact that men have worse immune systems [Why Women Have Stronger Immune Systems than Men, Live Science, September 28, 2011].
I conclude by drawing my now-traditional moral:
Lance Welton [email him] is the pen name of a freelance journalist living in New York.