A study in the Cell Reports journal has shown that the flu has an in-built clock which tells the virus exactly when to strike to have the maximum impact on the host.

Researchers have discovered that the virus slowly accumulates one particular protein called NEP. This protein needs to exit the cell and spread to other cells. The research has shown that if the virus will be weak if it attacks too early, but left too late then the hosts immune system has time to fight back.

It’s hoped that the discovery will lead to new antiviral flu drugs which target the virus’s internal clock and that it will provide a new design platform for the flu vaccine. New antiviral drugs that make the flu’s viral clock dysfunctional could help reduce the effectiveness of  the virus.

Research Leader Benjamin tenOever, Professor of Microbiology at Mount Sinai said that , “We knew that the virus has about eight hours in a cell to create enough copies of itself to continue spreading before the cell’s antiviral alarm would be set off. On a broader level, the virus needs two days of continuous activity to infect enough cells to permit spread to another human being. We wanted to tap into the flu’s internal clock and find a way to dismantle it to prevent the spread of the virus.”