Man flu is real, but women get more autoimmune diseases and allergies

Prof Gabrielle Belz

writer

Prof Gabrielle Belz

Professor, Molecular Immunology, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Dr Cyril Seillet

writer

Dr Cyril Seillet

Senior research scientist, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Men and women respond differently to diseases and treatments for biological, social and psychological reasons. In this series on Gender Medicine, experts explore these differences and the importance of approaching treatment and diagnosis through a gender lens.


We know that sex hormones drive characteristic male and female traits such as breast enlargement and hip widening in women, or increased muscle mass and growth of facial hair in men. But now we also recognise they have a major impact on the immune system – our body’s inbuilt mechanism that helps fight and protect us against disease.

Research suggests this has an evolutionary basis: survival of the species may mean men are harder hit by viruses, but a woman’s reactive immune system leaves her more susceptible to autoimmune diseases and allergies.

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Prof Gabrielle Belz

writer

Prof Gabrielle Belz

Professor, Molecular Immunology, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Dr Cyril Seillet

writer

Dr Cyril Seillet

Senior research scientist, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

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