Women Battle Colds And Flu
Infections Better Than Men
BBC News - Sci/Tech
Men's immune systems may not fight colds as well as women's
Men have long been sneered at for being pathetic patients when they have a cold. But a new report on the immune system shows there could now be an excuse for this old wives' tale.
When the human body comes under attack from bacteria or viruses, women's immune systems tend to fight back more vigorously.
The report follows a 1998 survey in which ill men were twice as likely as women to be labelled as "unbearable" by their partners.
However, this female advantage backfires savagely when diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis cause the body's immune system to attack itself. Nearly 80% of the 8.5 million Americans with "autoimmune" diseases are women.
These conclusions come from an 18-month study which calls for an "aggressive" campaign of research to discover why men and women suffer so differently from autoimmune diseases.
"Our primary goal is to increase researchers' awareness of these differences and suggest that they consider gender differences in designing new studies", said Professor Caroline Whitacre, at Ohio State University, who led the task force.
Research to date has shown that men and women's immune systems are different, with women's better at battling viruses. Women's immune response changes during pregnancy and this and other facts show that the sex hormones affect the immune system.
The scientists outlined key questions that they say should dominate future research:
Why do women's immune systems react more strongly to infection? How do sex hormones affect autoimmune diseases? Do faulty genes cause some autoimmune diseases? Why do MS and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms lessen during pregnancy?
The report is published in Science magazine.