March 20, 2021
A new study from a California hospital calls for injecting men with the female sex hormone progesterone to treat COVID-19.
The trial, carried out by pulmonologist Sara Ghandehari of the Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, recruited 40 male patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
‘As an ICU doctor, I was struck by the gender disparity among COVID-19 patients who were very sick, remained in the hospital and needed ventilators,’ Dr. Ghandehari told the Daily Mail.
Experts have also noted that premenopausal women tend to experience less severe cases of COVID-19 than their postmenopausal counterparts.
Progesterone is produced in both men and women’s bodies, although the latter produce considerably more of the hormone during their reproductive years.
According to experts, progesterone has certain anti-inflammatory properties and thus may be able to mitigate the often fatal immune responses called ‘cytokine storms’.
In their clinical trial, which was undertaken from April–August last year, the researchers recruited 40 male patients who had been hospitalized with moderate to severe COVID-19 and randomly divided them into two groups.
One group acted as a control sample, for comparison, and received only the standard medical care given at that time for the disease.
The experimental group, meanwhile, also received 100 milligram injections of progesterone twice daily for five days during the time they were hospitalized.
All the patients were assessed by the team daily for either 15 days or until they were discharged from hospital.
On the seventh day, each patient was ranked on a standard seven-point scale of clinical status, which ranged from 7 (‘not hospitalized, no limitations on activities’) though to 1 (‘death’).
The researchers found reported that compared with the control group, patients who received the progesterone treatments scored a median of 1.5 points higher on the scale.
No serious adverse effects were observed as a result of the progesterone injections. Two patients did die during the 15-day study period — one from each of the two groups — but such were unrelated to the experiment treatments, the team said.
‘While our findings are encouraging for the potential of using progesterone to treat men with COVID-19, our study had significant limitations,’ Dr Ghandehari cautioned.
Firstly, she explained, the sample size was relatively small and was primarily made up of White, Hispanic and obese individuals with a moderate burden of other conditions, which serve to increase the risk of worse outcomes.
Furthermore, while the trial was randomized and featured a control group, it was also unblinded — meaning that the research team, physicians and patients all knew who had received the experimental treatment.
‘Further research is necessary in larger, more heterogeneous populations, including postmenopausal women and at other treatment centers,’ Dr Ghandehari added.