Response to Illness Can be Dependent Upon Your Sex



Women talk more; men are more independent; women are better listeners; men are better leaders; these are just some of the stereotypes people think of when it comes to the differences that exist between men and women. Additionally, there is actual scientific data that illustrates that fundamental differences do indeed exist between the two sexes. For example, a recent survey of 10,000 people, published in the Public Library of Science One journal, showed that men and women have a distinct set of differences that set them apart from one another. Their analysis revealed that women possessed greater sensitivity, warmth and apprehension compared to their counter parts. On the contrary, men seemed to possess higher rates of emotional stability, dominance, rule-consciousness and vigilance compared to women.

However, what happens when men and women are compared to each other in regards to health issues? Is there also a difference between men and women when it comes to things such as the flu and other illnesses? Well, recent medical research is suggesting just that.  Sabra Klein, an immunologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland suggests that women are more susceptible to death and disease from infectious pathogens and that the reason for this is linked with reproduction.

When explaining the different effects that the flu virus can have on men and women, Klein went on to explain that a woman’s immune-system rapidly and substantially kicks into gear when fighting infections, even more so than a man’s. Although this can provide a decrease in the amount of viruses the woman initially acquires, it also means that she will likely suffer from the consequences of such a potent immune system. This sudden and substantial boost of power generated by the immune system can increase the severity of symptoms that a woman can experience during the length of the illness.

Klein came to this this conclusion after she and her research team studied the disparity of mice infected with the flu virus. Once the researchers castrated the male mice and removed the ovaries from the female mice, any differences in response to the virus had disappeared.  Additionally, the male mice became more sensitive to infection and after the neutered females received oestrogen and progesterone (female sex hormones), they became protected against the disease.

Klein’s research will hopefully prompt further investigation into sex differences concerning medicine and health fields which unfortunately appears to be minimal at this time. She feels that this issue is of critical importance as many epidemiological studies do not currently break down their results by sex which can be a hindrance to the findings. Too often, clinical trials have not taken place during a woman’s oestrus cycle which essentially eliminates crucial data helpful in deciphering the differences between a male and female.

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