The medical journal 'The Lancet' has published several pieces of cutting-edge research about the coronavirus, including the first reports that infected individuals can become contagious before symptoms appear. Now, the journal is one-upping itself by publishing research showing that men are more susceptible to the coronavirus than women.
According to a study of 99 patients treated in Wuhan's Jinyintan Hospital, along with researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai, men - particularly those with preexisting health problems - are more prone to the virus. It confirmed a similar finding from an earlier study.
The study also warned - somewhat unnecessarily - that early identification and treatment of the pneumonia-like illness was important, since complications like organ failure are common. So far, the virus has killed more than 170 people, all of them in China.
Of the patients studied by the researchers, more than half were infected in "clusters", a sign of just how rapidly the virus can jump from an infected person to a non-infected person.
"We observed a greater number of men than women in the 99 cases of 2019-nCoV infection. Mers-CoV and Sars-CoV have also been found to infect more males than females," the study said, referring to Middle East respiratory syndrome and severe acute respiratory syndrome, which are also coronaviruses.
"The reduced susceptibility of females to viral infections could be attributed to the protection from X chromosome and sex hormones, which play an important role in innate and adaptive immunity," it said.
Another alarming finding from the study: The mortality rate among the group studied was 11%. While that number is well above the 2%-3% official death toll, other epidemiologists have suggested that the true death toll for the virus is closer to 11%.
The study also offered a glimpse of the virus's more serious symptoms. One-third of the patients studied developed organ failure and other complications. Some 17% developed acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Given the potential consequences should the virus be left untreated, seeking care early after symptoms emerge is crucial, the researchers said. Of course, that doesn't bode well for people in Wuhan who have reportedly been turned away from overcrowded hospitals.
As researchers debate the genesis of the virus, a separate study of nine coronavirus patients published in The Lancet on Wednesday found that only one of them had not been to the Hunan seafood market in Wuhan where the virus has been traced to the market's illegal trade in wild animals. Many of them worked at the market.
And with that, the 'bat soup' theory lives on.