When are you most likely to catch the common cold?
Dr Cathy Wyse, Dr Lorna Lopez and last year's Research Summer Interns, Ava Clarke, Enya Nordon , Collette Murtagh and Alexandra Keogh, successfully published a research article on how the 'Susceptibility to the common cold virus is associated with day length.'
Highlights of the research findings:
Outbreaks of viruses that affect our lungs occur repeatedly in winter in the northern hemisphere.
From controlled experiments, research concludes that common cold infections are more likely to occur in summer.
Viral infection is more likely to develop into a cold in wintertime rather than in summer.
Innate seasonality of human immunity could affect the prevalence of the common cold.
This figure represents a visual summary of the main findings of the research paper. Each quarter of the image portrays a season. Summer has increased infection risk of the common cold and deceased disease risk, while Winter has decreased infection risk and increased disease risk of the virus.
The research group found that the risk of being infected with the common cold virus was actually higher in summer compared to winter. However, the risk of that infection progressing to an actual cold was higher in the winter. This finding suggests that the immune response to viral infection could vary by season or daylength, perhaps contributing to the increased winter prevalence of the common cold.
This second figure shows how the tilt and orbit of the Earth around the sun generates variation in day length across the year and how the variation in susceptibility to common cold infection and disease is altered in response to these changes.
Research in this area informs individuals of the likelihood of infection and development of the common cold virus. Hopefully it will guide people to prepare for increased disease risk in winter months.
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement No 950010 ). Ava Clarke and Enya Nordon were funded by a Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) scholarship from Maynooth University. Alexandra Keogh was funded by a Health Research Board studentship ( SS-2021-052 ) and Collette Murtagh was supported by an SFI Starting Grant awarded to Lorna Lopez. This publication has emanated from research supported in part by a grant from Science Foundation Ireland under Grant No. 1 5/SIRG/3324 .