J Nephrol. 2022 Sep 10. doi: 10.1007/s40620-022-01448-0. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: People with kidney failure treated with dialysis are at increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and severe COVID-19 outcomes such as hospitalization and death. Though there are well-defined sex differences in outcomes for the general population with COVID-19, we do not know whether this translates into kidney failure populations. We aimed to estimate the differences in COVID-19 symptoms and clinical outcomes between males and females treated with maintenance dialysis.
METHODS: In this prospective observational cohort study, we included adults treated with maintenance dialysis in Southern Alberta, Canada that tested positive for COVID-19 between March 2020 and February 2022. We examined the association between sex (dichotomized as male and female) with COVID-19 symptoms including fever, cough, malaise, shortness of breath, muscle joints/aches, nausea and/or vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, headache, sore throat, and loss of smell/taste using chi-square or Fisher’s exact tests. Secondary outcomes included 30-day hospitalization, ICU admission, and death.
RESULTS: Of 1,329 cohort participants, 246 (18.5%) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and were included in our study, including 95 females (39%). Of 207 participants with symptoms assessed, females had less frequent fever (p = 0.003), and more nausea or vomiting (p = 0.003) compared to males, after correction for multiple testing. Males exhibited no symptoms 25% of the time, compared with 10% of females (p = 0.01, not significant when corrected for multiple testing). We did not identify statistically significant differences in clinical outcomes between the sexes, though vaccinated patients had lower odds of hospitalization.
CONCLUSIONS: Sex differences in COVID-19 symptoms were identified in a cohort of patients treated with maintenance dialysis, which may inform sex-specific screening strategies in dialysis units. Further work is necessary to examine mechanisms for identified sex differences.