“Man flu”, a term that refers to the concept of men exaggerating their symptoms when feeling under the weather, is supposedly a real phenomenon.
While research has claimed that a number of men do in fact have weaker immune systems than was previously supposed, a new study has discovered that when afflicted with influenza, there may be scientific reason why men recover at a faster rate than women.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health decided to investigate the various effects that influenza can have on men and women.
The study, which was published in Biology of Sex Differences, stated that while it’s commonly known that women tend to suffer more seriously from the flu than men, the reason why this is hasn’t yet been confirmed.
The team carried out the study by infecting live mice and human cells extracted from male humans with a non-lethal dose of H1N1, an Influenza A strain.
This particular strain of influenza, which is also known as “swine flu”, caused a global flu pandemic between 2009 and 2010 that caused more than 18,000 deaths around the world.
The researchers found that the male mice and the human cells produced more amphiregulin when infected with the influenza strain.
Amphiregulin is a growth factor that has been found to play a role in tissue repair and development.
The increased production of amphiregulin in the male mice and male human cells is believed to have enabled a faster recovery time from the influenza strain, as the male mice who produced less of the growth factor were found to have similar recovery times to the female mice.
“The novel finding here is that females also have slower tissue-repair during recovery, due to relatively low production of amphiregulin,” said lead author Sabra Klein, PhD, who works as an associate professor at Bloomberg School.
Professor Klein is of the opinion that future flu treatments that boost the production of amphiregulin could be especially beneficial for women.
However, while the research team has come across a possible link between the production of the growth factor and influenza recovery time, they have yet to determine why men are more likely to produce greater levels of amphiregulin than women.
One possible explanation could be due to the higher levels of the sex hormone testosterone in men.
During the study, the researchers found that testosterone also played a role in protecting the male mice from severe flu symptoms.
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