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Female sex hormones play a vital role in defense against sexually transmitted diseases

the first study, female mice received either the hormone estradiol or progesterone, a combination of both, or nothing at all prior to exposing them to the herpes virus. Both estradiol and progesterone are natural hormones found in the body.

The estradiol-treated mice were protected 100 percent, whereas the progesterone-treated mice and mice that didn't receive any hormones, showed extensive infection, and additionally, the progesterone-treated mice had increased inflammation and were more susceptible to the virus. The mice treated with a combination of the two hormones, estradiol and progesterone, were protected, but only if the virus doses were weakened.

In the second study, just like in the first study, mice were treated with hormones but, before being exposed to the real herpes virus, they received a vaccine

Surprisingly, unlike in the first study, the progesterone-treated mice and the mice that received no hormones were the most protected. About half the mice in the combination hormone group were also protected and the estradiol-treated group was not at all protected. Similar studies confirmed that a combination of the hormones estradiol with progesterone provided the best protection in vaccinated mice.

"These studies add to the growing evidence that we need to promote more gender-specific medical approaches in future," she said. "We have to increase awareness in both the medical community as well as the public regarding sexually transmitted diseases and women."

Extending these findings into clinical studies is the next step. McMaster researchers are currently discussing the design of a study with infectious disease clinicians in Hamilton, which may begin in as early as the next few months. Additionally they will be looking at issues of co-infection with both HIV-1 and HSV-2 which is a big problem clinically.

The two studies were posted online on the Journal of Virology website this week and will be published in th
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Source:McMaster University


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