New study finds pregnant women fight flu virus aggressively, get sicker

WASHINGTON – Researchers say they’re surprised by the results of a study involving flu and pregnant women.

“What we found out was that pregnant women have an unusually strong response to influenza virus,” says Dr. Catherine Blish, senior author of the study by the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

The finding goes against conventional wisdom that says a woman’s immune response is not as strong during pregnancy so that the mother doesn’t reject her fetus.

Instead, the study found that the bodies of pregnant women react to flu by drawing a large number of immune cells to the lungs to fight the virus, making it harder to breathe.

Blish tells WTOP the study may explain why the flu tends to make pregnant women sicker than other adults.

In the future, it might help woman to find a way to ramp down that immune response.

“That would be a great addition to the drugs that we have that target the virus. So then we’d be targeting the person and the virus both.”

In the meantime, Blish is urging everyone, and especially pregnant women, to get a flu shot.

The study has been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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