A Canadian study indicates that the female sex hormone oestrogen gives women’s immune systems added bite at fighting off infection.
The researchers believe women may have evolved a more robust immune system because of their key role in producing and nurturing young.
Oestrogen seems to counter an enzyme which blocks the inflammatory process.
The researchers focused on an enzyme called Caspase-12, which is known to put a brake on the inflammatory process, the body’s first line of defense against harmful invaders such as bacteria and viruses.
Lead researcher Dr Maya Saleh said: “These results demonstrate that women have a more powerful inflammatory response than men.”
Their work raises the possibility of new ways to reinforce the immune system using genetic manipulation.
But writing in the journal, the researchers said: “A question remains: will men be amenable to the idea of being treated with an exclusively female hormone?”
“Women are well known to be able to respond more robustly to infections, and to recover more quickly than men.
“In evolutionary terms it only takes one male to reproduce with lots of females, but females are much more important in terms of producing offspring.”