Steel Magnolias Fight Colds

Common cold finds greater foe in women than men

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(RxWiki News) "Women from the south are graceful, gentle like the branches of a magnolia tree, yet strong as steel to withstand tornados... they are like steel magnolias."  A recent study found that young women have a significantly stronger constitution than men when fighting off the common cold.

The differences are nullified after menopause, which probably means this immune response is somehow regulated by sex hormones.

"Women fight off the common cold more effectively than men."

John Upham, a professor at the University of Queensland School of Medicine at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Australia, commented that the common cold is just a bother for healthy people, but people with asthma and other serious lung diseases suffer a great deal when they get a cold.

Upham and his colleagues searched for a way to prevent these infections, especially in people with chronic respiratory conditions. Now the team knows to add the effects of sex hormones into the equation. Upham explained that the focus of the research is how the immune system both works and fails in patients with asthma.

With these findings regarding hormones, the researchers will further study the effects of hormones on the immune system with plans for a vaccine in the future. 

In this study, blood mononuclear cells isolated from 63 healthy men and women were grouped by sex and age. The first group was 50 years old and younger and the second group was 52 years old and up. Cells were then cultured with rhinovirus 16.

Rhinovirus-induced IFNγ and IL-13 was significantly higher in women who were 50 years and younger compared to the same age group of men and the group of women who were over the age of 51. Both IFNγ and IL-13 were negatively associated with age in women but not in men.

The study was published in the journal Respiratory Research.

Last Updated:
October 11, 2012