Study Finds Men Are More Likely To Spread Viral Particles Than Women

Masks and social distancing have become an everyday part of many people’s daily lives, as coronavirus is spread via respiratory droplets. But is virus transmission equal for everyone? Could it be that some people are more susceptible to spreading the virus than others?

Are Men to Blame?

A new study from Colorado State UniversityIt has been shown that viral particles are more common in men than in women. Researchers claimed this is due to speaking patterns and larger lung capacity in male biology—and the numbers are quite telling.

According to the study’s findings, males produce 62 percent more droplets than females. The study also revealed that adults produced 62% more droplets than children. Singing produces 77% less droplets than talking.

However, when they account for participants’ voice volume and exhaled carbon dioxide, the study claimed that “age and sex differences were attenuated and no longer statistically significant.”

In other words: A man may produce more virus particles when he speaks than a woman, or a 10-year old child. However, viral particles may be more concentrated in the voice of a child or woman shouting than those produced by a man.

Lead study author John Volckens—a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering—said that these observations are important because they support the idea of measuring CO2 levels and noise levels in enclosed spaces to determine transmission risk.

“If there were significant differences after accounting for CO2 between males and females and kids, then you’d have to know how many males, females, and minors were in a room to estimate transmission risks,” Volckens explained.

“Our data suggest that you don’t need to know that if you just measure CO2 and noise levels, because those measures are an equalizer for these demographic differences.”

Other Factors In Transmission

In the study, which was titled “Reducing Bioaerosol Emission and Exposures in the Performing Arts: A Scientific Roadmap for a Safe Return from COVID-19,” Volckens’ team explained there are many factors to consider when attempting to determine how viruses are transmitted.

“Factors such as the pathogen’s infectious dose, viral loads in the source individual, and susceptibility of the host (which may be impacted by individual’s physiology, genetics, and comorbidities), as well as a wide range of environmental and social factors related to human-to-human interactions all impact the likelihood that a disease is transmitted from one individual to another,” the study claimed.

Results in Action

The results of the study have already been used at CSU to help the college’s performing arts programs get back on stage. Over the past two-years, all of the drama and music programs have been shut down or gone virtual. CSU has been able to reimplement its programming safely thanks to this study.

Monitoring noise and CO2 levels at indoor performance venues could be a low-cost way to determine the risk of disease transmission. Not just for COVID-19. Volckens suggested that this method could also be used in the future to combat any airborne diseases, such as seasonal flu or common cold.

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