A recent study from scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland suggests women may be more resistant to viruses like the flu virus because of the sex hormone estrogen, which men are lacking.
The research, published in the American Journal of Physiology, used flu-free human nasal cells and exposed them to a class of drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators, or SERMs, then the treated nasal cells were then put into contact with the influenza virus.
Researchers found that any female donor cells treated with estrogen or SERMs from 72 to 24 hours prior to flu contamination showed a far greater resistance to infection, with viral bodies within the nasal cell cultures far lower than male cells also treated with estrogen. The results strongly indicate estrogen in the female donors’ cells had an antiviral effect and reduced the replication of the flu virus while male nasal cells are no more resistant to infection, even after SERM treatment.
The study suggests that perhaps a female resistance to flu has something to do with estrogen’s capacity to reduce the cell’s metabolic rate, which could slow down the ability of the virus to replicate itself. A man’s lack of estorgen could mean virus cells can replicate faster and therefore they could get more severe types of flu.
The lead author of the study, Sabra Klein, noted in a statement that “other studies have shown that estrogens have antiviral properties against HIV, Ebola and hepatitis viruses.”
Is this finally a chance for women to rejoice about their slow metabolism, or an opportunity for guys to say how heroic they are for surviving stiffer strains of flu? Discuss…
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