A new study in England has come forward with findings that suggest that viruses become more efficient at invading cells and causing an infection during certain times of the day.
The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers of the study, from the University of Cambridge, say that the ability of the virus to infect a host is aided or hindered by the individual cells and the circadian rhythms of the body. The findings suggest that virus infects more effectively during morning hours.
The circadian rhythms can be described as the body’s internal clock. It controls the basic bodily function and parts of the physiology by regulating the resources and action of the cells. Each cell has its own internal clock that allows them to be ready for any changes to the environment and know about the certain actions they need to take. According to the researchers, knowing the right time for the cells to be exposed to the virus would lead to more effective infection and proliferation inside the host.
The experiments conducted in the new study, on mice, were similar to the theories about the effectiveness of flu vaccination being linked to the time it is administered. Another method of fighting the disease was also suggested by the study.
For the new study, mice were infected with herpes virus at different time of day in order for the researchers to test the levels of virus infection and proliferation. The results showed that the mice that lived in an environment with 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night were more vulnerable to infection when entering their resting phase.
In the experiments that made use of mice that didn’t have a gene linked to circadian rhythms, Bmal1, the virus was seen to replicate at much higher levels regardless of the time the mice were infected on. This effect was observed in cell cultures where the circadian rhythms were blocked. The influenza A and herpes viruses were used for this part of the study.
According to Dr. Rachel Edgar, the first author of the study, the current results suggest that people having irregular circadian rhythms such as night shift workers could be more vulnerable to the flu. The study also gives an explanation about influenza spreading rapidly during winter as that’s when Bmal1 goes through a seasonal change.
Dr. Akhilesh Reddy, a professor and researcher at the University of Cambridge said that “Given that our body clocks appear to play a role in defending us from invading pathogens, their molecular machinery may offer a new, universal drug target to help fight infection.”
He added that “The virus needs all the apparatus available at the right time, otherwise it might not ever get off the ground, but a tiny infection in the morning might perpetuate faster and take over the body.”
The current study shows that a host is most vulnerable to an infection during the day. The results suggest a sort of guidance that can be used in order to further prevent infections and knowing about the right time to treat them.
According to Prof. Reddy “In a pandemic, staying in during the daytime could be quite important and save people’s lives, it could have a big impact if trials bear it out.”