Enzyme may be reason why older people and men are more susceptible to COVID-19

20/01/2021

A team of Australian researchers, including from the Centenary Institute, has shown in a new study that older people and men tend to have higher levels of the enzyme ACE2 on the cells of their lower lungs–and that this may be the reason for their increased risk from COVID-19.

“The ACE2 enzyme is the entry receptor for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The spike of the virus binds to ACE2 on the surface of the cell which is a crucial step to the cell being infected,” said Professor Phil Hansbro, Director of the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation and co-author on the study.

“We found increased ACE2 expression occurring in older people and males which may explain their higher risk profiles for COVID-19,” he said.

“We also discovered lower ACE2 levels in people with asthma which may indicate why this population group appear to suffer less from severe coronavirus complications.”

The study was led by Professor Peter Wark from the Hunter Medical Research Institute and the University of Newcastle and was published in the journal ‘Respirology’.

Research paper: ACE2 expression is elevated in airway epithelial cells from older and male healthy individuals but reduced in asthma.

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