Increasing Infections

James Michael Howard jmhoward at
Thu Apr 27 10:27:04 EST 2000

A New Explanation of Why Infections are Increasing in Human Populations

James Michael Howard
Fayetteville, Arkansas, U.S.A.

Re: New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 342, Number 17, April, 2000: 
Editorials: "Emerging Infections - Another Warning" 

The following closing paragraph from "Emerging Infections - Another Warning" is
in reference to four articles in this issue of the NEJM:  "After almost a decade
of battling emerging infections, it seems that the factors supporting their
occurrence have only become more common and complicated. I believe that the
public health infrastructure cannot and will not keep up with these infections
unless we refocus our efforts and reevaluate the resources needed to respond.
Senators William Frist (R-Tenn.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) have recently
authored a bill to amend Title III of the Public Health Service Act to provide a
new and critical public health infrastructure to address this growing crisis. If
the four reports in this issue of the Journal do nothing else, they will provide
powerful and convincing evidence for the bill's first hearing."

It is my hypothesis that people of higher testosterone are increasing in human
populations and the increase in their percentages is the cause of the secular
trend in various countries.  Testosterone increases vulnerability to infection.
Male gender "is associated with a dramatically increased risk of major
infections following trauma" (1) and "male sex steroids are involved in the
immunodepression observed in after trauma-hemorrhage" (2).  Testosterone is also
involved in vulnerability to viral infections (3,4).  Therefore, I suggest
increasing infection rates, and the penetration of human populations by new
viruses, result from increases in the percentage of individuals of higher
testosterone in human populations.

(1) Offner, P.J., Moore, E.E. & Biffl, W.L. (1999). Male gender is a risk factor
for major infections after surgery. Arch. Surg. 134, 935-8.

(2) Wiehmann, M.W., Zellweger, R., DeMaso, C.M., Ayala, A. & Chaudry, I.H.
(1996). Mechanism of immunosuppression in males following trauma-hemorrhage.
Critical role of testosterone. Arch. Surg. 131, 1186-91.

(3) Holyoak, G.R., Little, T.V., McCollam, W.H., & Timoney, P.J. (1993).
Relationship between onset of puberty and establishment of persistent infection
with equine arteritis virus in the experimentally infected colt. J. Comp.
Pathol.109, 29-46.

(4) McCollum, W.H., Little, T.V., Timoney, P.J., & Swerczek, T.W. (1994).
Resistance of castrated male horses to attempted establishment of the carrier
state with equine arteritis virus. J. Comp. Pathol. 111, 383-8. 

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