Tis the season of girlfriends grumbling about looking after their ill significant others with words like ‘man flu’ and ‘exaggerating’ flying under their suspicious breath. However, maybe we should stop with the dismissive comments and Doubting Thomas thoughts, because man flu is real. Apparently.
A study by the John Hopkins University in the American Journal of Physiology: Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology analysed how men and women reacted to the influenza virus, and some clear differences were discerned. Turns out men are more vulnerable to all those nasty infections and tend to suffer more. Sorry.
Scientists looked at the effect of female hormone oestrogen on each sex when it suffers from the Extreme Sniffles. flu. (In 2013, a Stanford University study found that the male sex hormone testosterone weakened flu resistance.) Volunteers were injected with both the oestrogen and the influenza virus, and it turned out that women fared much better at resisting the virus. Meanwhile, men felt the symptoms way more severely, despite having extra oestrogen in their system. The conclusion? The protective anti-viral effect of oestrogen is only activated in women. And women who are injected with oestrogen for health issues like infertility and menopause may be more resistant than other members of the population to the flu virus.
Previous studies have shown oestrogen is a valuable potential weapon in the fight against hepatitis, HIV and Ebola, Macleans reports. So while we women may not have as much of a right to complain about our flu, we do have an untapped superpower running through our blood.