Do we all resist viruses equally? No, the answer varies from organism to organism. But it turns out that sex also has an impact. It is a generally accepted hypothesis. Sex hormones have opposite effects when a virus attacks cells. Female hormones have a strengthening effect on the immune response. Testosterone, the main male hormone, is mostly suppressive. Yes, women are more resistant to viruses.
The current pandemic
It has become clear again that women are more resistant to infectious diseases. They say Ministry of Health statistics from Spain. The ratio of men to women infected with SARS-CoV-2 is 40-60. When looking at the number of deaths, the relationship is reversed (60-40).
Of the total number of men affected by the virus, just over half (51%) had to be hospitalized. 5.4% of the total died. On the other hand, 31% of the women who tested positive had to go to the hospital. 1.8% died.
These gender differences in viral infection are not new. Women have a lower viral load in the blood than men. The main reservoir for this virus is lymphoid tissue. From here it can get into the blood. The difference in viral load between men and women could be related to a greater ability for women to remove them from the blood.
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Other well-documented cases are hepatitis B and C viruses. Herpes simplex viruses also react differently in women than in men. You develop a higher level of antibodies. These gender-specific differences were not observed in the common flu. However, they exist for many other viruses. It is clear: women are more resistant to viruses.
Men, more viral
In general, the adaptive immune response is more intense in women. After a virus infection, the immune system returns to its homeostatic state. The basal immune responses are much higher in women than in men. Because of this, women are more susceptible to the development of immunopathological diseases. While men are more at risk of persistent viral infections.
An interesting theory emerges in research carried out at Royal Holloway University in London. It was published in Nature communication. He suggests that it is the viruses themselves that decide to respect women more. Men and women can transmit viruses from person to person. But only women can do it vertically with offspring.
It is unclear how viruses change their virulence based on gender. However, once the basics of this mechanism are known, viruses could be made less virulent. They have undoubtedly helped to consolidate a new medical discipline that has been known as gender medicine for 20 years.