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Study Explores Why Men Recover From Flu Faster Than Women

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It is widely acknowledged that there exits a gender bias in the incidence and severity of a number of diseases, and flu is one such disease.

Women are said to experience a more severe outcome from influenza A virus infection and recover slower than men, even when the viral load is the same in both the genders.

Investigators at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have now found that compared to females, males produce more of Amphiregulin, which may contribute to their early recovery from influenza.

Amphiregulin (AREG) is an epidermal growth factor that is a significant mediator of tissue repair at mucosal sites, including in the lungs during influenza A virus (IAV) infection.

As part of the study, adult male and female mice, and human cells were infected with mouse-adapted influenza A virus and a seasonal H1N1 virus, respectively.

Pulmonary function analyses performed 14 days post-infection showed that although both males and females similarly cleared virus from the lungs, the repair and recovery of damaged lung tissue was faster in males than females.

"As compared with females, Amphiregulin expression was greater in the lungs of male mice as well as in primary respiratory epithelial cells derived from mouse and human male donors, in response to H1N1 IAVs", according to the investigators.

The findings could pave way for new flu treatments that enhance Amphiregulin production, particularly in women, says Sabra Klein, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Bloomberg School.

The study titled "Production of amphiregulin and recovery from influenza is greater in males than females" is published in the journal Biology of Sex Differences.

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