Women really are stronger than men at least when it comes to the immune system.
The clues are in the once joked about but now confirmed as real man flu. Apparently men can’t help it. Hormones are to blame.
Differences between the genders in their immune response to flu vaccines may explain why the sexes react differently to the disease itself, say US and French scientists.
They found women’s immune response is much stronger, and that men’s is damped by testosterone, possibly prolonging the disease.
They suggest the male response may be hampered to prevent the immune system overreacting, which can cause problems.
Women’s immune systems are generally stronger than those of men, responding more robustly to both infection and vaccination, although the cause of the difference was previously unknown.
Professor Mark Davis of Stanford University and a team of researchers measured immune responses in 53 women and 34 men following seasonal influenza vaccination.
The women produced a higher antibody response in response to the vaccine, compared with the men.
Searching for factors that could explain the differences, the authors identified a set of genes which appeared to be regulated by testosterone.
Men with high testosterone levels displayed weak antibody responses to the flu vaccine, suggesting that the genes may influence immune function.
The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the USA.
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