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Women are more vulnerable to infections

Public-health officials discount role of sex in people's response to flu and other infections.

Sabra Klein came to the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproduction this week armed with a message that might seem obvious to scientists who obsess over sex: men and women are different. But it is a fact often overlooked by health researchers, says Klein, an immunologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.

Her research on influenza viruses in mice, presented at the meeting in Montreal, Canada, helps explain why women are more susceptible to death and disease from infectious pathogens — and the reason is intimately linked with reproduction. “She’s one of the people that really gets the bigger picture as far as why do we see these patterns,” says Marlene Zuk, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in St. Paul.

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