A woman's menstrual cycle plays an important role in her susceptibility to infection, say European researchers in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. They found that women are most susceptible to infection, such as from Candida albicans or other STDs, during ovulation than at any other time during the reproductive cycle. They speculate that this natural dip in immunity may be to allow spermatozoa to survive and fertilize an egg successfully.
"This could be an explanation why during ovulation females have more risk of being infected with sexual transmitted diseases like HIV or HPV," said researcher Miguel Relloso, from Complutense University in Madrid.
Working with mice, Relloso found that the sex hormone estradiol increased susceptibility to the fungal infection candidiasis. To monitor the effect of estradiol treatment on infection, researchers used in vivo and ex vivo fungal infection models.
"Estradiol-treated mice were more susceptible to the fungal infection and had lower Th17 immune response," notes Relloso. He identified dendritic cells as the target cells of estradiol and showed that estradiol treated dendritic cells were inefficient at triggering the Th17 immune response to C. albicans antigens.
The researchers conclude that this immune system modulation allows male sperm to survive long enough to fertilize an egg but may also open the door to other types of infection.
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Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology