Sex bias in the outcome of human tropical infectious diseases: influence of steroid hormones

J Infect Dis. 2014 Jul 15;209 Suppl 3:S107-13. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jit610.


Numerous investigations have revealed a bias toward males in the susceptibility to and severity of a variety of infectious diseases, especially parasitic diseases. Although different external factors may influence the exposure to infection sources among males and females, one recurrent phenomenon indicative of a hormonal influence is the simultaneous increase in disease occurrence and hormonal activity during the aging process. Substantial evidence to support the influence of hormones on disease requires rigorously controlled human population studies, as well as the same sex dimorphism being observed under controlled laboratory conditions. To date, only very few studies conducted have fulfilled these criteria. Herein, we introduce tropical infectious diseases, including amebiasis, malaria, leishmaniasis, toxoplasmosis, schistosomiasis, and paracoccidioidomycosis, in which hormones are suspected to play a role in disease processes. We summarize the most recent findings from epidemiologic studies in humans and from hormone replacement studies in animal models, as well as data regarding the influence of hormones on immune responses underlying the pathology of the diseases.

Keywords: estradiol; immunity; infection; resistance; sex difference; susceptibility; testosterone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Estradiol / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Paracoccidioidomycosis / immunology*
  • Paracoccidioidomycosis / metabolism
  • Parasitic Diseases / immunology*
  • Parasitic Diseases / metabolism
  • Sex Factors
  • Testosterone / metabolism*
  • Tropical Climate*


  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol