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Sex differences in the incidence and severity of respiratory tract infections

By Matthew E. Falagas, Eleni G. Mourtzoukou and Konstantinos Z. Vardakas

Abstract

SummarySex is a significant epidemiological factor for several diseases. However, the role of sex in the development and outcome of various infections has not been extensively studied with the notable exception of urinary tract infections. We searched in the PubMed database to identify articles that could provide relevant data regarding sex differences in the incidence and severity of respiratory tract infections (RTIs). We extracted data from 84 relevant studies that provided information regarding sex differences in the incidence and severity of RTIs. Females are more commonly affected with infections of the upper respiratory tract, specifically sinusitis, tonsillitis, and otitis externa. On the other hand, males are more commonly affected with otitis media, croup, and most important, lower RTIs. It is also evident from the reviewed evidence that the course of most RTIs is more severe in males than in females, leading to higher mortality in males, especially in community-acquired pneumonia. In conclusion, the available data suggest that males are more susceptible than females to most types of RTIs in all age groups (adults and children). Overall, it seems that males develop RTIs more frequently than females, except for sinusitis, otitis externa, and probably tonsillitis. Anatomic, lifestyle, behavioural, and socioeconomic differences between males and females may explain the observed findings. The role of sex hormones in the regulation of the immune system may also contribute to the reported sex differences in the incidence and severity of the various types of RTIs, especially in adolescents and adults

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd.
Year: 2007
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.rmed.2007.04.011
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