The long-standing mystery of why the hepatitis B virus (HBV) hits men harder than women may be explained by a new discovery.
The virus targets men more readily than women, triggering serious complications like cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Men infected with HBV are also six times more likely than women to develop a chronic form of the disease.
About 400 million people worldwide have chronic hepatitis B, including a form that is highly infectious and can be transmitted through blood, saliva and sexual contact.
In lab experiments with mice, Chinese researchers found abnormal forms of a protein, apolipoprotein A-I (Apo A-I), in the livers of infected male mice but not infected females.
They then identified abnormal forms of these Apo A-I proteins in the blood of men infected with HBV, but not in women.
The researchers suggest that besides explaining the gender differences, the proteins may provide important markers for tracking the progression of hepatitis B.
The study has been published online in ACS' Journal of Proteome Research.