Sex-Specific Differences and Pregnancy Impact Outcomes from COVID-19 Infection and Vaccination
Sabra Klein, PhD
Thursday, February 23, 2023
5:30 p.m. | USC SOMG Lecture Hall
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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness about sex-specific differences in immunity and outcomes following respiratory virus infections. Strong evidence of a male bias in COVID-19 disease severity will be presented based on clinical data and preclinical animals models, which illustrate sex differential immune responses against SARS-CoV-2. Prior to the pandemic, data from other viral infections, including influenza viruses, showed profound sex differences in virus-specific immunity, including locally in the respiratory tract. We have used influenza A viruses to interrogate sex-specific immunity to infection and vaccination. Although males are more susceptible to most viral infections, females possess immunological features that contribute to greater vulnerability to immune-mediated pathology while experiencing better protection following vaccination. Both sex chromosome complement and related X-linked genes (e.g., TLR7) as well as sex steroids, including estrogens and androgens, play important roles in mediating the development of sex differences in immunity to respiratory viral infections and vaccination.
Dr. Klein is a Professor of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Department of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She is an expert on sex and gender differences in immune responses and susceptibility to infection and vaccination, with interrogation of sex-specific effects of aging in humans and animal models. She currently has over 175 peer-reviewed publications, authored several book chapters, and edited three 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. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Klein has written commentaries for several journals and been interviewed by several major news media outlets about sex differences in immunity, disease outcomes, and responses to vaccines. She is: PI of the Johns Hopkins Specialized Center for Research Excellence (SCORE) in sex and age differences in immunity to influenza, MPI of the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Serology Center of Excellence, MPI of an NIH Merit Award to study sex differences in the pathogenesis of respiratory microbial infections, co-chair of the advisory board of the Johns Hopkins Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health, member of the Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health at NIH, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Women’s Health, Sex, and Gender Research, and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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