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Sex and Gender Differences in Tuberculosis Pathogenesis and Treatment Outcomes.

Tuberculosis remains a daunting public health concern in many countries of the world. A consistent observation in the global epidemiology of tuberculosis is an excess of cases of active pulmonary tuberculosis among males compared with females. Data from both humans and animals also suggest that males are more susceptible than females to develop active pulmonary disease. Similarly, male sex has been associated with poor treatment outcomes. Despite this growing body of evidence, little is known about the mechanisms driving sex bias in tuberculosis disease. Two dominant hypotheses have been proposed to explain the predominance of active pulmonary tuberculosis among males. The first is based on the contribution of biological factors, such as sex hormones and genetic factors, on host immunity during tuberculosis. The second is focused on non-biological factors such as smoking, professional exposure, and health-seeking behaviors, known to be influenced by gender. In this chapter, we review the literature regarding these two prevailing hypotheses by presenting human but also experimental animal studies. In addition, we presented studies aiming at examining the impact of sex and gender on other clinical forms of tuberculosis such as latent tuberculosis infection and extrapulmonary tuberculosis, which both appear to have their own specificities in relation to sex. We also highlighted potential intersections between sex and gender in the context of tuberculosis and shared future directions that could guide in elucidating mechanisms of sex-based differences in tuberculosis pathogenesis and treatment outcomes.

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