Testosterone may make men likely to get the flu, study finds

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Updated on May 4th, 2015
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Dec. 23, 2013 at 3:05 PM ET

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Sorry, dude, we know you're suffering. Higher testosterone levels may give men a weakened immune response to infectious illnesses like the flu.

Just in time for flu seasons peak, science may have figured out a reason why some men make wimpy, needy patients compared to women when it comes to infectious diseases.

A report released today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) links testosterone levels with response to flu vaccine, showing that, as a group, men with higher levels of the male hormone are more likely to have weak, or no response to a flu vaccine, meaning that their bodies dont mount a strong defense.

In short, they have weaker immune systems than do women, leaving them more vulnerable to severe infections.

Men are suffering! Mark M. Davis, the Avery Family Professor of Immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, told NBC News. They arent as resistant. Women are superior. Theres no way around it.

Science has known for some time that there are gender differences between the immune systems of men and women, differences that can have profound impacts for health and medicine.

For example, while women tend to develop a more robust immune reaction to infection, that strength comes with a cost. Women are much more likely to suffer from autoimmune diseases like lupus, and they are more likely than men to develop Alzheimers disease. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to have severe cases of viral, bacterial and parasitic infections.

What mechanisms underlay this phenomenon has been somewhat mysterious. The study released today might help tease apart some of that mystery.

Testosterone may make men likely to get the flu, study finds

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