SEP 14, 2017 10:30 AM PDT

Sex as a Biological Variable in Microbial Pathogenesis

1 1 159

  • Associate Professor, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
      Sabra L. Klein, Ph.D. received her B.A. in Psychology from Randolph-Macon College,
      her M.S. from the University of Georgia in Biological Psychology, and her Ph.D. in
      Behavioral Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University. She did postdoctoral training
      at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Molecular Microbiology and
      Immunology where she is now an Associate Professor. Dr. Klein is a leading expert on sex differences in immune responses and susceptibility to infection and currently has over 100 peer-reviewed publications, authored several book chapters, and edited two books on the broad topics of sex differences in response to infection and treatments for infectious diseases. During the 2009 influenza pandemic, she was commissioned by the WHO to evaluate and publish a report on the impact of sex, gender, and pregnancy on the outcome of influenza virus infection. Dr. Klein also has been invited to write reviews to introduce journal policies about sex reporting, wrote an Op Ed in the New York Times about sex-specific dosing of vaccines, and was lead author on an Opinion piece in PNAS defining the importance of sex as a biological variable in biomedical science. Her research has been highlighted in commentaries appearing in PNAS, Nature, and U.S. News and World Reports. Her research has been supported by grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Science Foundation, and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. In 2010, she won the Society for Women's Health Research Medtronic Award for Science Contributions, which recognized her scientific contributions as well as her commitment to mentoring other female scientists.


    Males and females differ in their immunological responses to viral and vaccine antigens, with females typically mounting higher immune responses than males. These sex-based immunological differences contribute to variation in susceptibility to infectious diseases and responses to vaccines in males and females. The intensity and prevalence of viral infections are typically higher in males, whereas disease outcome can be worse for females, which in many cases is caused by an exaggerated immune response that damages tissue and causes pathology. In response to vaccines, females mount higher immune responses and experience more adverse reactions than males. Several variables should be considered when evaluating male/female differences in responses to viral infection and treatment: these include age, hormones, genes, and gender-specific factors related to access to, and compliance with, treatment. Knowledge that the sexes differ in their responses to infectious diseases and vaccines should influence the recommended course of action differently for males and females.

    Show Resources
    Loading Comments...