October 01, 2014
1 min read

MERS fatality rates highest among men

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The recent epidemic of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in Saudi Arabia had high fatality rates, especially among men, according to the results of an epidemiological analysis.

Ibrahim G. Alghamdi, MPhil, PhD, of the University of Lincoln, United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted the first study to describe the epidemiological pattern of Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, coronavirus. They evaluated data on 425 MERS cases recorded by the Saudi Ministry of Health between June 6, 2013, and May 14, 2014.

Their results showed that MERS was more common in men than women (62% vs. 38%); fatality rates were higher in men as well (52% vs. 23%). Other recent research showed a higher influenza rate in men, probably due to higher testosterone levels and subsequent suppression of the immune response.

“Thus, a similar relationship may exist with [MERS], and consequently, men with a lower level of testosterone may have improved immunity to viral infection,” the researchers wrote.

Also, men in this region are more likely to spend time outside, which puts them at greater risk for exposure to infection sources.

Older people are vulnerable to MERS as well, the researchers noted. The findings demonstrated that older people are at greater risk for infection; patients who were aged 45 to 59 years and 60 years or older had the highest rates of MERS infection and related death.

The infection was more common in certain regions of Saudi Arabia. Riyadh, Jeddah and the eastern region had the highest rates of MERS infections and death; the fatality rate was highest in the eastern region.

Incidence was higher in low-relative humidity and high temperature environments. Alghamdi and colleagues suggest increasing the relative humidity to more than 35% and maintaining temperatures between 5°C and 15°C in hospitals and indoor places may slow disease spread.

“However, further epidemiological studies are required to determine the source and the mode of [MERS] infection in Saudi Arabia,” the researchers wrote.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.