Send to

Choose Destination
J Leukoc Biol. 2012 Jul;92(1):67-73. doi: 10.1189/jlb.0811427. Epub 2011 Nov 30.

Mechanisms of sex disparities in influenza pathogenesis.

Author information

The W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Epidemiological evidence from influenza outbreaks and pandemics reveals that morbidity and mortality are often higher for women than men. Sex differences in the outcome of influenza are age-dependent, often being most pronounced among adults of reproductive ages (18-49 years of age) and sometimes reflecting the unique state of pregnancy in females, which is a risk factor for severe disease. Small animal models of influenza virus infection illustrate that inflammatory immune responses also differ between the sexes and impact the outcome of infection, with females generating higher proinflammatory cytokine and chemokine responses and experiencing greater morbidity and mortality than males. Males and females also respond differently to influenza vaccines, with women initiating higher humoral immune responses but experiencing more adverse reactions to seasonal influenza vaccines than men. Small animal models further show that elevated immunity following vaccination in females leads to greater cross-protection against novel influenza viruses in females compared with males. Sex steroid hormones, including estradiol and testosterone, as well as genetic differences between the sexes may play roles in modulating sex differences in immune responses to influenza virus infection and vaccination. Future studies must elucidate the pathways and cellular responses that differ between the sexes and determine how best to use this knowledge to inform public health policy-makers about prophylaxis and therapeutic treatments of influenza virus infections to ensure adequate protection in both males and females.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center