The effect of progesterone-based contraceptives on the immune system has been studied in the context of sexually transmitted infections but not on viral diseases outside the reproductive tract.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, administered either progesterone or placebo to progesterone-depleted female mice. The mice were then subjected to an influenza A viral challenge.
The team found that, although progesterone treatment did not confer resistance to influenza infection, it promoted faster recovery by altering inflammation and improving pulmonary repair and function. These effects were mediated by the upregulation of the epidermal growth factor amphiregulin in the lungs, the researchers showed.
Reporting in PLoS Pathogens (online, 15 September 2016)
, the team concludes that the World Health Organization’s recommendation to increase hormonal contraceptive use during disease outbreaks could have additional benefits on the outcome of infectious diseases.