Key Points:

First, I would like to apologise for not filing a column last week. Without being overly dramatic, I can reveal I was struck down by a particularly nasty strain of Man Flu, and quite frankly I am lucky to be alive.

I don't expect female readers to fully appreciate the severity of my condition but I am sure I have the sympathy of all men.

For about five days I was unable to type, think, or do even the smallest task, such as get myself a glass of water or change the TV channel.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the condition is that you reluctantly become a burden on others. It's those closest to you - such as your wife, who must straighten the sheets, mop your brow and go through the McDonald's drive-through on your behalf - who suffer the most while you are unable to function.

Obviously you don't want to complain, but one of the symptoms antibiotics and modern medical science finds the hardest to combat is the feverish state that makes the sufferer deliriously call out for help at regular intervals, sometimes as often as every four or five minutes.

This symptom is unique to Man Flu - the milder, less-dangerous female strain allows the sufferer to continue functioning at a basic biological level.

For me the most frustrating thing about Man Flu is the fact that, as a man, your natural instinct is to ignore the symptoms and soldier on, but apparently the virus attacks a part of your left brain, which makes you behave like a woman and complain incessantly.

Ignoring Man Flu would be like ignoring the fact that you had been bitten repeatedly by a black mamba or Australian brown snake.

Once you are infected with Man Flu there is no turning back and only time will tell whether you survive. Surprisingly, most people do pull through but it doesn't feel that way at the time, leading sufferers to proclaim, "I just want to die, I just want to die. Can you get me another piece of toast?"

The deadly snake example doesn't really do Man Flu justice as antivenoms are available for snake bites. No antivenom exists for Man Flu and a cure could be many years away.

At the forefront of that research is Dr Jaime Costello. Costello has been a regular sufferer of the condition and once his fifth wife left him he decided to set up the Australasian Man Flu Research Centre just out of Darwin, coincidentally just a few kilometres from the Australian snake bite research centre.

"I was amazed at how much fundraising and research was going on in the name of cancer, Alzheimer's and Aids yet very little was being done for Man Flu," says Costello. "Don't get me wrong, these are all worthy causes, but so is Man Flu."

Costello's research takes a two-pronged attack designed, first, at recognising why only men are targeted, and second how the severe symptoms can be reduced so sufferers are more productive while infected.

"We are still at a loss as to why painkillers work effectively in many strains of flu contracted by women, but are useless with the Man Flu super bug," says Costello.

To give you an idea just how painful and debilitating Man Flu can be, his research revealed that 85 per cent of sufferers thought that having Man Flu would be more painful than childbirth. These overwhelming stats were collated while the sufferers were fit and well - when in the grips of Man Flu some sufferers claimed the condition was akin to being bitten by a yellow-bellied black snake while in the midst of child birth.

What makes these stats so alarming is that many of these men had never been attacked by a yellow-bellied black snake yet they could visualise it while in a Man Flu state.

At his clinic, Costello has had to re-calibrate his pain threshold scales to accommodate Man Flu. Now, rather than asking a patient about his level of pain on a scale of 1 to 10, he adopts a scale of 1 to 20. Most experts agree that even the most traumatic childbirth can be covered by the standard scale of 1 to 10.

One of the true ironies of nature is the fact that this super bug affects only the male of the species, the sex that is genetically wired to not complain, yet women who are genetically geared to do just that, seem to be completely immune to it.

And it's this conundrum that makes Costello's research so controversial. By injecting female rats with Man Flu he hopes to find the gene that makes females immune to the super virus. However, some critics fear that the very act of doing this may eventually allow the virus to mutate and cross the sex barrier and ultimately infect females.

Most experts agree that females, who are already genetically programmed to complain, wouldn't stand a chance of surviving Man Flu.