Statins could boost male resistance to respiratory infection

Drugs that mimic part of the role of oestrogen - including statins - could increase resistance to respiratory infection in men at high risk, research suggests.

Sneeze: statins could boost resistance to respiratory infection (Photo: iStock)
Sneeze: statins could boost resistance to respiratory infection (Photo: iStock)

An international study, headed by researchers at Harvard University, found that the nitric oxide synthase-3 (NOS3) enzyme improved bacterial clearance in the lungs and played a crucial role in preventing associated respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.

Activation of the NOS3 enzyme is dependent on the female sex hormone oestrogen, which may help explain why women tend to be naturally more resistant to respiratory infections than men.

Drugs that mimic oestrogen’s role in targeting NOS3 activation – such as statins – could be used as a preventative measure to help raise resistance in men at high risk of respiratory infection, the findings suggest.

In a series of experiments, published in the eLife journal, the researchers introduced Streptococcus pneumoniae into the lungs of mice.

To observe the effects of NOS3 on the bacteria, they treated some of the male mice with oestrogen. They found that female mice and these treated male mice were better at clearing out bacteria responsible for pneumonia and other infections than the ordinary males. They also had less acute inflammation after 24 hours.

Drugs that target NOS3 activation

In mice with the gene responsible for producing NOS3 removed, female bacterial resistance fell to be more in line with their male counterparts, further suggesting activation of this enzyme was driving the heightened resistance normally observed in females.

‘Ultimately, this work could be especially useful in reducing risk of secondary bacterial pneumonias during seasonal or pandemic influenza,’ said Professor Lester Kobzik, the senior author.

‘We were quite pleased that the work led us to NOS3-targeting drugs that are already available and that can indeed improve resistance to pneumonia in our mouse model.’

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Close up of hand holding sample tube with 'Omicron' handwritten on side

Government urged to 'free up' GP practices and expand steps to control Omicron

GPs have called for immediate action such as suspension of QOF to allow practices...

(Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty Images)

Coronavirus: Key guidance GPs need to know about COVID-19

GPonline provides an overview of the key guidance relating to coronavirus, including...

External wall of GP surgery with wording 'medical centre'

‘Utterly toxic’: GPs speak out over abuse and physical attacks on practice teams

GPs have condemned a rise in verbal and physical attacks on practice staff - warning...

Artist's image of a spiked virus

Javid warns of 'substantial risk' from new COVID-19 variant

The highly mutated COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 'may pose a significant risk to public...

Desk with lettering 'LMC conference'

LMCs reject 'outdated' GMS contract and demand move to item of service payments

LMCs have voted to scrap the 'outdated and inadequate' GMS contract and to replace...

GPs at an LMC conference waving green voting cards in the air

LMCs demand ringfence on enhanced services cash and clear GP representation in ICSs

LMCs have called for a ringfence on enhanced services funding, along with a guarantee...