A University of Cambridge study has discovered that viruses are more dangerous when they infect their victims in the morning.
The dramatic finding showed that viruses were 10 times more likely to be successful if the infection took place in the morning.
And some bad news for shift workers – a study done on animals suggested that a disrupted body clock (caused by night work or jet-lag) always left the subject more vulnerable to infection.
The scientists infected mice with influenza and herpes viruses and discovered that those who were infected in the morning had 10 times the viral levels in the evening.
It was later revealed that the impact of a disrupted block clock created a ‘locked in’ condition that allowed viruses to rapidly multiply.
Published in the scientific journal PNAS, one of its leading researchers Professor Akhilesh Reddy said that the findings could help people gain a better understanding of the impact of viruses on the body at different times of day.
Speaking to the BBC about the study he said;
“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.
“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.
“The time of day of infection can have a major influence on how susceptible we are to the disease, or at least on the viral replication, meaning that infection at the wrong time of day could cause a much more severe acute infection.”
A major focus of the study, was the gene Bmal1 because the body has relatively low levels of it in the morning and so makes the body more susceptible to infection. They also found that Bmal1 levels undergo major seasonal changes, explaining why people are more likely to catch the flu in the winter when the gene is at its weakest and least active.
The researchers came to the conclusion that shift workers could be ‘prime candidates’ for annual flu shots as they are more susceptible to catching the flu as a result of their disrupted body cycles.
Dr Rachel Edgar part of the study group said;
“[The study] indicates that shift workers, who work some nights and rest some nights and so have a disrupted body clock, will be more susceptible to viral diseases”