Sex Differences in Respiratory Viral Pathogenesis and Treatments

Biological sex affects the outcome of diverse respiratory viral infections. The pathogenesis of respiratory infections caused by viruses ranging from respiratory syncytial virus to influenza viruses and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 differs between the sexes across the life course. Generally, males are more susceptible to severe outcomes from respiratory viral infections at younger and older ages.

During reproductive years (i.e., after puberty and prior to menopause), females are often at greater risk than males for severe outcomes. Pregnancy and biological sex affect the pathogenesis of respiratory viral infections. In addition to sex differences in the pathogenesis of disease, there are consistent sex differences in responses to treatments, with females often developing greater immune responses but experiencing more adverse reactions than males.

Animal models provide mechanistic insights into the causes of sex differences in respiratory virus pathogenesis and treatment outcomes, where available.

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Article information: Sex Differences in Respiratory Viral Pathogenesis and Treatments. Rebecca L. Ursin and Sabra L. Klein. Annual Review of Virology 2021 8:1

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