The recent epidemic of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in Saudi Arabia had high fatality rates, especially among men, according to the results of an epidemiological analysis.

Ibrahim G. Alghamdi, MPhil, PhD, of the University of Lincoln, United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted the first study to describe the epidemiological pattern of Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, coronavirus. They evaluated data on 425 MERS cases recorded by the Saudi Ministry of Health between June 6, 2013, and May 14, 2014.

Their results showed that MERS was more common in men than women (62% vs. 38%); fatality rates were higher in men as well (52% vs. 23%). Other recent research showed a higher influenza rate in men, probably due to higher testosterone levels and subsequent suppression of the immune response.

“Thus, a similar relationship may exist with [MERS], and consequently, men with a lower level of testosterone may have improved immunity to viral infection,” the researchers wrote.