Being a woman may not be a disadvantage after all. Though they are always referred to as the weaker sex, this could be good as women are likely to live longer than their male counterparts due to their stronger immune systems.
It is a phenomena seen in every population and every country – women live longer than men. Most people thought this was because men did more dangerous things—they take a lot of risks, they don’t go to see doctors as and when due and therefore die earlier. Going by a new study, women not only live longer than men, they also appear to have a more robust health. The reason is simple: it’s in their genes.
Women are known to have a lower incidence of cancer — men have a two- to five- times greater risk of developing the disease. Women are also better able to survive trauma, and according to some reports don’t get as seriously ill from bacterial and viral infections.
According to the study, the woman’s system is genetically programmed to better resist infections and also has a back-up system for fighting disease.
The secret to women’s stronger immunity lies in a key biological difference between the sexes. Women have an extra copy of the female X-chromosome, while men have only one and a much smaller Y-chromosome.
This means women have greater access to molecules called microRNAs, which are encoded on the X-chromosome. These tiny strains of ribonucleic acid are regarded as major regulators of the immune system.
Dr Claude Libert from Ghent University in Belgium led the research which drew up a detailed map of all the microRNAs in X-chromosomes found to have a role in immune functions and cancer.
He said: ‘Statistics show that in humans, as with other mammals, females live longer than males and are more able to fight off shock episodes from sepsis, infection or trauma.
‘We believe this is due to the X-chromosome, which in humans contains ten per cent of all microRNAs detected so far in the genetic code.’ Several of these are thought to have ‘important functions in immunity and cancer’, he said.
Dr. Agadu Charles disagrees with the notion that women are genetically programmed to resist infections.
According to him, ‘ It should be the other way round. Take for instance, in the transmission of most Sexually Transmitted Diseases(STDs), it is the female specie that is at a higher risk of infection because the anatomy of the female’s reproductive organs are designed to receive what comes out of the male and most times it is at the receiving end. The virus/bacteria are able to move rapidly to a safer region within the vagina/cervix or ascend upward to the Fallopian tubes as in the case of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease(PID) which is an ascending infection”.
Men on the other hand cannot easily contract these infection except on repeated exposure because they could easily induce dieresis by drinking a lot of water before the act and pass out any virus or bacteria contacted, he added.
Women may have extra X chromosome while the men have Y chromosome but these are basically for reproductive purposes. That is why it is the man that has the key to a male child in a family which is the extra Y chromosome. This may not really have anything to do with immunity, he posited.