‘Man flu’ is a real phenomenon, experts have found after months of research
The concept has been long dismissed by sceptical women who have been forced to cope with their partners complaining of suffering from a severe illness when it seems to just be a simple cold.
However, a team from Johns Hopkins University has now discovered that the fact women have the sex hormone oestrogen in their system means they cope better than men when hit with the influenza A virus – known colloquially as the flu.
The hormone has an antiviral effect for women, which protects them from the more aggressive symptoms of the virus. And the lack of oestrogen in men’s systems means they are struck harder by the illness.
“We see clinical potential in the finding that therapeutic oestrogens that are used for treating infertility and menopause may also protect against the flu,” the study’s lead author Dr Sabra Klein explained.
In order to complete their research, the team looked at the way a virus hits the body – entering certain cells and then making copies of itself. Once released from the host cell, the virus can rapidly spread both throughout the body and in between people.
Researchers looked at the way the hormone oestrogen affects the flu’s ability to replicate the infected cells by gathering nasal cells – the first port of call for the virus.
They used both male and female donors and then exposed the cells to the virus itself, as well as oestrogen, the environmental oestrogen bisphenol A and selective oestrogen receptor modules (SERM) – frequently used in hormone therapy.
It was then discovered that the oestrogen, SERM compound raloxifene and bisphenol A prevented the replication of the flu virus in the women’s nasal cells but not the men’s.
The results of the study were published in the American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.
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