In todays age, people are working around the clock, literally. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics roughly 7 million Americans work the night shift. With such a large nocturnal population, people should be aware of the additional susceptibility to the risk of infection.
A new study published by the University of Cambridge found that the body clock affected the ability of viruses to replicate and speed between cells. Those who are in a resting phase or who have a disrupted body clocks are more likely to be infected with an illness. The findings are important because they may help explain why shift workers, or those who’s body clocks are routinely disrupted are more at risk to health problems including infections and chronic disease.
Peoples body clocks are highly regulated by the circadian rhythms and the chemical Bmal1 among other things. The amount of this chemical in our body fluctuates depending on the time of day and activity level, and our body clocks. Circadian rhythms control many aspects of our physiology and bodily functions including sleep patterns, body temperature, immune systems and hormones.
Shift workers whose body clocks are disrupted are known to have a lower level of Bmal1. The lack of this chemical makes them more susceptible to acquire an infection vs. people who work “nine to five”.
These findings are significant because it could lead to better prevention efforts. for example shift workers could become prime candidate for reviving annual flu vaccines.
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