Why men might really have a point about man flu

Men often find themselves being mocked about claiming to have flu when it may really be just a cold. But, now it appears that they might really have a point. New research suggests that viruses are often more virulent in men than they are in women.

Scientists at Royal Holloway University have found that certain viral infections affect men more. The research team found that they are worse if they are a type of virus which is transmitted from a mother to her child, including rubella, chickenpox, zika and hepatitis. Women, they found, can pass on viruses to more people.

According to Dr Francisco Ubeda, viruses could actually be evolving so they are less dangerous to the female population. Scientists focuses on looking at the virus Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus Type 1, which can go on to cause leukaemia. However, women who are infected tended to develop leukaemia less than men.

Previous studies have revealed that death as a result of infectious diseases is often higher in men than women. While that has been put down to differences in immune systems, researchers now believe it could be the virus itself which is preventing women from becoming sick.

Mathematical modelling

Authors used mathematical modelling, finding that viruses had lower fatality rates for women. Researchers also looked at people in Japan and the Caribbean, finding that men in Japan were much more likely fall victim to leukaemia. However, in the Caribbean, there was no difference. The scientists said that could be because breast feeding is more prolonged in Japan.

Viruses are understood to find women more valuable because they are capable of passing on pathogens in more ways than men can as they can pass on from mother to child. Researchers believe that the study could be valuable in paving the way for sex specific treatments.