Melbourne: Scientists in Australia claim to have made an important discovery about how the immune system reacts to rhinoviruses, the viruses that usually cause the common cold, in men and women.
A team at University of Queensl and School of Medicine at Princess Alexandra Hospital found that young women make a much stronger immune response to rhinoviruses than young men.
The differences disappeared after menopause, so they were probably regulated by sex hormones, said team leader Prof John Upham, adding these findings were crucially important for finding new ways of combating rhinoviruses.
While these viruses are just a nuisance in healthy people, they can make people with asthma or other chronic lung diseases very unwell. In our efforts to find new ways to prevent these infections, we need to take into account effects of hormones, and how they affect the immune system, he said.
Prof Upham said the team has now been studying how the immune system worked – or didn’t work – in people with asthma.
The scientists say that they will further study the effects of hormones on the immune system, with long term plans for development of a vaccine.