Recent studies suggest that acute infections worsen pre-existing chronic diseases or result in new chronic diseases, leading to poor long-term outcomes in acute illness survivors. People of older age, male gender, black race, and preexisting chronic health conditions are particularly prone to develop severe sepsis; hence prevention strategies should be targeted at these vulnerable populations in future studies.
Female gender has been demonstrated to be protective under such conditions, whereas male gender may be deleterious due to a diminished cell-mediated immune response and cardiovascular functions. Male sex hormones, i.e., androgens, have been shown to be suppressive on cell-mediated immune responses. In contrast, female sex hormones exhibit protective effects which may contribute to the natural advantages of females under septic conditions. Thus, the hormonal status has to be considered when treating septic patients.
Therefore, potential therapies could be derived from this knowledge. In this respect, administration of female sex hormones (estrogens and their precursors) may exert beneficial effects. Alternatively, blockade of male sex hormone receptors could result in maintained immune responses under adverse circulatory conditions. Finally, administration of agents that influence enzymes synthesizing female sex hormones which attenuate the levels of pro-inflammatory agents might exert salutary effects in septic patients. Prospective patient studies are required for transferring those important experimental findings into the clinical arena.