Estrogen Helps Women Beat the Flu

A new study suggests a protective advantage to estrogen, the quintessential female hormone that naturally circulates in women’s bodies, as it was proven to dramatically reduce the amount of flu virus that replicated in infected cells from women. In addition, artificial forms given for hormone replacement therapy and estrogen-like chemicals found in the environment were also found to have the same effect on cells in women, but not in men.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health collected cells from the nasal passage from both female and male volunteers, according to a press release. Cells in the nasal passage are typically the first to be infected with the flu.

They then exposed the cells to different types of estrogens, including normal levels of naturally occurring estrogen, different types of selective estrogen receptor modulators including synthetic estrogen-like chemicals used for hormone replacement therapy and infertility treatment, and an estrogen-like chemical found in many plastics. According to the press release, researchers then exposed cells to the influenza A virus.

Tests showed that female cells that received estrogen had nearly 1,000-fold less viral replications, compared to those that hadn’t been exposed to the hormones. Researchers also noted that the hormones behind the reduction act on estrogen receptor beta, one of two types of receptors for estrogen inside cells.

Read more about the estrogen/flu study – first published in the American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.

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