Bird flu virus lowers testosterone levels in men

(ORDO NEWS) — Infection with the H7N9 avian influenza virus causes an inflammatory response in the testicles and disrupts hormonal regulation in men, but not in women, according to a new human study.

As a result, their testosterone concentration decreases, and the infection is more severe.

The avian influenza A virus, belonging to the subtype (serotype) H7N9, was first described in East Asia in 2013. It infects a variety of birds, primarily domestic birds, and the infection is associated with high mortality among birds and significant economic losses.

But the biggest concern is that avian influenza (particularly the H7N9 variant) can infect humans. The virus infects the respiratory system and is associated with a high incidence, with men being more likely to get sick and have a worse tolerance for infection.

This is evidenced by the observations of epidemiologists covering five waves of the spread of avian influenza infection.

However, the reasons for the “partiality”, it would seem, of the respiratory virus to the sex of a person remained unknown.

The authors of an article in the journal Nature Communications decided to deal with this issue , who drew attention to the importance of sex hormones (including testosterone) when people are infected with the H7N9 virus subtype.

Previously, in experiments on mice, it was found that another common subtype of the avian influenza A virus, H1N1, reduces the concentration of testosterone in the blood of males, but not females.

It is worth recalling here that testosterone is also produced in women, but in much smaller quantities. In addition, a decrease in testosterone levels was associated with a severe course of the disease.

A recently published article is devoted to a new and dangerous subtype of the “avian virus” – H7N9 , whose lethality for humans is estimated at about 40 percent.

369 subjects took part in the work. Some of them were infected with the H7N9 virus subtype, others with the H1N1 or H3N2 subtypes.

The scientists also examined people who were known to have been exposed to the H7N9 virus but had negative PCR results for the infection. For all participants, the level of sex hormones in the blood was determined.

As you might expect, avian influenza infection caused a marked drop in testosterone levels in men. H7N9 also provoked an inflammatory response that also affected the testicles ( testicles ), the main site of testosterone production in men. This is evidenced by high levels of pro-inflammatory chemokines and cytokines.

A decrease in the level of the male sex hormone can be caused either by a simple local reaction – inflammation of the testicles – or by a violation of complex hormonal regulation involving the brain. Scientists learned about this during experiments on laboratory mice.

The authors conclude that, in the future, blood testosterone concentration can be used to predict the severity of avian influenza A, as well as the outcome of the infection.

The new work is very relevant, because bird flu may well become the culprit of a new pandemic. “Careful surveillance and mass vaccination of poultry has so far been successful in preventing the spread of H7N9 to humans.

However, avian influenza viruses continue to evolve and require our increased vigilance,” said one of the authors Professor Yuelong Shu (Yuelong Shu).

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