Via Unsplash: Tom Ezzatkhah
‘It seems that the “stronger sex” really struggle to battle an illness that we seem to bounce back from with ease.’
There are times in all our lives that us ladies have found ourselves sighing in frustration as our men are led up in bed, seemingly suffering from the man flu.
It seems that the “stronger sex” really struggle to battle an illness that we seem to bounce back from with ease.
For years we have always just put this down to the myth of the “man-flu”…
…but could there be an actual scientific reason behind this?
Scientists have found why men are hit harder by flu: estrogen.
The female sex hormone is thought to have a powerful, anti-viral effect against the influenza A Virus. This means that we can bounce back quicker than our male counterparts.
A study at Johns Hopkins University looked at both male and female nasal cells and how estrogen compounds affect the flu virus. It was seen that the dose of estrogen slows down the replication of the virus throughout the cells from women, but not men.
It is this protective mechanism that stops the replication of the virus in human cells and it is the ability to replicate at speed that makes flu such an acute infection.
It isn’t only the flu that estrogen might be able to protect us from.
In fact, there have been past studies into the anti-viral effects of the various oestrogenic chemicals such as estradiol. They have been found to have an impact on serious infections such as Ebola, HCMV, HIV and Hepatitis C.
But back to the man flu study. Cultures were gathered from 10 male and 42 female donors that were between 18 and 45 years old. These cultures were then exposed to a particular type of oestrogen and a class of drugs called Select Oestrogen Receptor Modulators.
Cultures were gathered from 10 male and 42 female donors that were between 18 and 45 years old. These cultures were then exposed to a particular type of estrogen and a class of drugs called Select Estrogen Receptor Modulators.
These cultures were then infected with the influenza A virus in order to figure out if the estrogenic signalling would have an impact on the spread of the infection, as well as how the effect differed between the male and female cultures.
It was found that the SERM drugs and oestrogen had less impact on the flu virus if they were introduced after infection.
Via Pixabay: dungthuyvunguyen
However, the cells injected with SERMs and estrogen up to 24 hours before infection showed a much higher level of resistance against the virus.
The female nasal cell cultures were found to contain a much lower level of the flu virus at the end of the study were compared to the male cells; something that led the scientists to believe that the activity of these estrogenic chemicals is sex-dependent.
The results of this study seemed to suggest that the estrogenic chemicals that were used in the study had a particular interaction with protein structure called estrogen receptor beta that is found in the female nasal cells. This receptor binds with other molecules in the nasal area that creates an immune response.
It is through that understanding that the inner mechanism behind the protective qualities of estrogen is key to reducing the severity of the flu and how it is then spread between people.
So what is the next step in this study?
The scientists believe that it is to study the fluctuating estrogen levels that cycle through pre-menopausal women and those that are taking a particular type of birth control in order to figure out how estrogen can be manipulated and used for future medical treatments.
We are excited to learn more about how estrogen can be used in the future, however, we have to say that it is slightly disappointing to learn that our men folk might just have a reason behind their claims of “Man-flu”.