Time of the day can affect immune system, a new study hints

Our immune system is essential for the survival of all living beings. Without an immune system, our bodies would be open to attack from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more. It is our immune system that keeps us healthy as we drift through an ocean of pathogens in our lifetime. This vast network of cells and tissues is constantly on the lookout for invaders, and once an enemy is spotted, a complex attack is mounted.

In any case, our immune system works the same way, irrespective of whether an infection occurs during the day or at night. Nevertheless, research now manifests our bodies retaliate to infections differently at day and night. This is because of our body clock called the circadian cycle. From bacteria to mammals, nearly all organisms have adapted their physiology and behavior to a daily rhythm.

This circadian rhythm influence virtually all aspects of physiological architecture. Therefore, it is not surprising that several features of the immune response are regulated by a time-of-day dependent manner. Our body can adjust its function and behavior by knowing whether it is day or night. For example, melatonin- a chemical which is produced only at night- indicating it is time for sleep.

Besides, the body clocks control over our immune system, and the immune cells are detected in tissues at a time where they are more prone to be infected. Our immune cells move around the body and make a halt at our lymph nodes at night wherein; they develop memory of what was faced during the day – including infections. So, the subsequent time, they can respond even more better to the infections.

Another notable finding has shown that the time we are infected with a virus such as influenza or hepatitis, can reveal how unwell we can become. Also, studies have depicted the time we take our medication has an effect on its action in our body. Nevertheless, this depends on the type of the drug too.

Circadian role and Vaccines

A randomized trial of over 250 adults aged above 65 were given influenza vaccine in the morning between 9 am, and 11 am. This has shown a robust antibody response compared to those vaccinated in the afternoon. Similarly, a study was done with BCG vaccine for people in the mid-twenties, and this also amplified the immune response compared to those vaccinated in the afternoon. Hence, this has proved that early morning vaccinations may provide an enhanced immune response.

Moreover, studies have shown that an ample amount of sleep after vaccine for hepatitis A, strengthens the memory immune cells which has the ability to provide long term immunity compared to those who have restricted sleeping after vaccination.

This also relates to the current pandemic and the associated vaccination programs. To our surprise, the receptor which allows the covid virus, entering into the cells is under the control of our circadian cycle. During the day, there are increased levels of this receptor on the cells which are present in our airways. Well, the answer to the time of the day we get vaccinated against the covid virus and its impact on immune response is yet to be found.

However, a more specific “timed” approach would be an eye opener to future vaccines which does not have such good efficacy rates or if they are used in people with weaker immune response.

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Source: Science Alert

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