Loss of the Y chromosome: It is linked to COVID-19

Researchers from Uppsala University (Sweden) have now shown that the loss of the Y chromosome in part of their white blood cells increases the risk of developing severe COVID-19 and this discovery could improve treatment against the disease.


Loss of the Y chromosome (LOY) in a part of the white blood cell is a common genetic alteration in men, and it is interesting to note that this alteration is more common with advancing age . During the COVID-19 pandemic, it quickly became apparent that men were more severely affected by the disease. Up to 75% of patients admitted to intensive care units were men, and the proportion of men who died is also higher than women.

“We studied blood samples taken from over 200 male patients admitted to intensive care units between early 2020 and summer 2021. Our analyzes showed that the LOY was linked both to disease severity , according to the WHO classification, and risk of death,” says Bożena Bruhn-Olszewska, a researcher at Uppsala University.

“We had the opportunity to analyze samples taken from some patients three to six months after discharge from the intensive care unit. In these samples, the percentage of cells with LOY was dramatically decreased. To our knowledge, this is the first time that LOY has been shown to have dynamic properties related to an acute infectious disease,” explains Hanna Davies, another researcher at Uppsala University. The researchers believe LOY could be used as a biomarker to predict which patients are at risk of developing severe COVID-19 disease.


‘Our findings contribute to a better understanding of the importance of the LOY for disease susceptibility, especially in relation to immune system functioning. We also believe that the new knowledge may be relevant to other common viral infections that are more severe for men than women,” says Jan Dumanski, a professor at Uppsala University who led the study.

  • Loss of Y in leukocytes as a risk factor for critical COVID-19 in men ( genomemedicine.biomedcentral.com)

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