Can estrogen help fight coronavirus? Southern California doctor explains female hormone's possible impact

Clinical trials are looking at the role female hormones may play in COVID-19 patients. Studies are giving critically ill male patients estrogen to examine a possible connection.
There's new research points to a possible clue about why some women may have a physical advantage in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Anthony Cardillo, ER specialist and CEO of Mend Urgent Care, joined ABC7 via Skype to give us his perspective.

A new study in Lancet shows that extensive contact tracing and isolation were key in controlling the spread of the virus in a city in China. What can we learn from that?
"What we know is that in the absence of really absence of technology, vaccines and treatments, we have to really defer back to "more primitive mechanisms" and that is isolation and contact tracing, which means that we contact all the individuals and trace back everybody that has been exposed to a possibly infected person or someone that we know is infected. We trace them all back and put them in isolation or ask them to be quarantined," said Cardillo.

"In history that has worked, but also we're seeing in China that an aggressive approach in doing that contact tracing has led to a decline in the spread of the virus and just the percent of people that are getting newly infected. And also, we learned that there are a lot of new technologies that we have, including our cellphones, that can be implemented to help expedite that because it's a very labor-intensive process. There's a lot of discussion and talk right now about using our cellphones and other technology to help advance that, but it's a pivotal piece of information on helping us contain this virus," said Cardillo.

There's a theory that estrogen may have a preventative effect and that two clinical trials are looking at the role hormones play for COVID-19 patients. Can you explain why scientists would look at that?
"We know that women have two X chromosomes and men have an X and a Y. And we know that genetic material on that extra X chromosome does confer a greater level of immunity for women. We also know that's why they have a greater degree of autoimmune diseases, but women have a more sophisticated immune system. We are seeing now that men and women are getting infected at a similar rate, however men are dying more rapidly. So a lot of discussions going into why that is. They're thinking maybe it's the hormones. Is it possibly estrogen and progesterone that's causing that? And so as we do in science, we're doing studies and there are several places right now that are looking and they're actually giving female hormones to male patients who are critically ill to see if there's any impact. to see if it's actually the hormones. We don't know yet if it's the hormones or just a greater immune system, but it's worth trying and they're doing that," said Cardillo.

The CDC just updated priorities for testing to include a wider group of people who have had some symptoms. What does that mean - and whom will that affect?
"Well, everyone should really be tested, that's what we're all realizing. Now as we get more availability with tests, we are lessening the criteria. So right now we are at the phase where we're saying even with minimal symptoms or contacts, we should be testing those persons. What we're going to find is a greater number of cases and then we'll implement those contact tracing strategies, we'll find all of the people that those positives are related to or in contact with, then we'll try to limit that spread. So really what this is going to do is give as a greater number of positives, which we are ready for, but also help us contact all of those that are at risk of getting infected or infecting others. So the more testing we can do, the better it is for the eradication of this virus," said Cardillo.

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