COVID-19: research on the beneficial effect of oestrogen


Mithra, the Belgian biotech company specialising in women's health, has announced the launch of phase II of its research programme to study the potential beneficial effects of Estetrol (E4), a natural human oestrogen, on patients suffering from COVID-19.

The company decided to launch this research programme based on the results of several studies which indicate that COVID-19 appears to affect men more than women. One of the reasons for this could be biological differences in the immune system. Oestrogens are thought to have a protective effect against human contamination by coronaviruses, by reducing the action of a protein called "angiotensin-converting enzyme 2" (ACE2).

In Belgium, for example, the death rate for women is lower than that for men, up to the age of 74, then balances out in the 75-84 age group, before reversing after the age of 85. For Professor Jean-Michel Foidart, Perpetual Secretary of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium, this seems to confirm the hypothesis of the protective role of oestrogens in women during their hormonal cycle and even up to 15-20 years after menopause.

This had been highlighted in the past for other infectious respiratory diseases, such as SARS. The protocol for the research programme is currently under development, while the Phase II study of the programme is expected to begin by the end of 2020 on patients infected with the virus.