Background Rhinoviruses (RV) are key triggers in acute asthma exacerbations. Previous studies suggest that men suffer from infectious diseases more frequently and with greater severity than women. Additionally, the immune response to most infections and vaccinations decreases with age. Most immune function studies do not account for such differences, therefore the aim of this study was to determine if the immune response to rhinovirus varies with sex or age. Methods Blood mononuclear cells were isolated from 63 healthy individuals and grouped by sex and age (≤50 years old and ≥52 years old). Cells were cultured with rhinovirus 16 at a multiplicity of infection of 1. The chemokine IP-10 was measured at 24 h as an index of innate immunity while IFNγ and IL-13 were measured at 5 days as an index of adaptive immunity. Results Rhinovirus induced IFNγ and IL-13 was significantly higher in ≤50 year old women than in age matched men (p < 0.02 and p < 0.05) and ≥52 year old women (p < 0.02 and p > 0.005). There was no sex or age based difference in rhinovirus induced IP-10 expression. Both IFNγ and IL-13 were negatively correlated with age in women but not in men. Conclusions This study suggests that pre-menopausal women have a stronger adaptive immune response to rhinovirus infection than men and older people, though the mechanisms responsible for these differences remain to be determined. Our findings highlight the importance of gender and age balance in clinical studies and in the development of new treatments and vaccines.
Carroll, M. L., Yerkovich, S. T., Pritchard, A. L., Davies, J. M., & Upham, J. W. (2010). Adaptive immunity to rhinoviruses: sex and age matter. Respiratory Research, 11, 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1186/1465-9921-11-184