Men may recover more quickly from influenza infections because they produce more of a key lung-healing protein, a study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests.
The scientists, whose findings were published online in Biology of Sex Differences on July 17, infected live mice and human cells derived from male humans with influenza virus, and found that both the male mice and human cells produced more amphiregulin, a growth factor protein important in wound healing. The male mice recovered more quickly, compared to female mice, whereas male mice lacking amphiregulin had recovery times close to those of females.
Researchers have known that women, compared to men, tend to have more severe flu with slower recoveries even when their virus levels are the same. It had been thought that this was due solely to women’s greater levels of lung inflammation during flu infections.
“The novel finding here is that females also have slower tissue-repair during recovery, due to relatively low production of amphiregulin,” says senior study author Dr. Sabra Klein, an associate professor in the department of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Bloomberg School.
The research could lead to new flu treatments that boost amphiregulin production, particularly in women, she added.