Viruses are dangerous when they infect their victims in the morning, according to the latest study from the University of Cambridge published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In the study, mice were infected with either flu-causing influenza virus or herpes virus, which is known to cause a range of diseases such as cold sores.
The mice infected in the morning were found to have 10 times the viral levels of those mice infected in the evening, suggesting morning viral infection is greatly potent partly due to the body’s 24-hour pattern. The body’s internal gene or clock gene called Bmal1, which controls the genes’ activity throughout the day, is noted to be at its peak in the afternoon. In the morning, it is in its lowest, making people more susceptible to infection.
In an interview with BBC, one of the researchers, Prof. Akhilesh Reddy, explained the difference between daytime and nighttime infection. For a virus to successfully infect its victim, it needs all the “apparatuses” available at the right time, something which is not available to it at night, according to Reddy. However, at the daytime, virus could easily perpetuate faster even with just a tiny infection because the body clock gene is at its lowest.
Reddy believes that the findings could help stop the spread of diseases as this new knowledge about how viruses work emphasizes the need for people to stay inside during daytime, keeping them from infecting others and saving lives as a result.
Disrupted body clock also potentially increases risk
Furthermore, the research also showed that disrupting the mice’s body clock put them into a state that allowed viruses to thrive. This, according to the study’s main author Dr. Rachel Edgar, indicates that people who work in shifts – rest some nights and work some nights – will be more susceptible to viral diseases.
Previous studies have implicated the role of body clock in our susceptibility to infections before, but this recent discovery just gives us an idea on when to be more cautious and careful.