This article has been reviewed according to Science X's editorial process and policies. Editors have highlighted the following attributes while ensuring the content's credibility:


peer-reviewed publication

trusted source


Study shows observing a sick individual triggers a biological response

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

It's well-known that when those around us get sick, there's a good chance we'll catch what they have, but new research published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution reveals that simply observing a sick individual triggers a biological response.

Patricia Lopes, an assistant professor of biology at Chapman University, is studying how the body anticipates the possibility of infection just by witnessing someone else's symptoms. This raises questions about the interconnectedness of individuals within a and how the perception of sickness can influence the health and behavior of others.

Her recent work showed that when healthy animals interacted with animals showing disease symptoms, they activated molecular pathways related to immune responses and changed their egg composition. These types of responses are also found in humans, as summarized in Lopes's publication in Functional Ecology.

"This research has helped unveil another level of the hidden ripple effects of infections, showing that when one individual falls ill, it's not just their problem—it's a complex story that can impact the health and behavior of many others," said Dr. Lopes.

Researchers don't yet understand how long these anticipatory responses last but note that they shouldn't replace like vaccines. Lopes is currently studying how these anticipatory responses come about and whether they have any protective effect for the organisms experiencing them.

More information: Patricia C. Lopes, Responding to infection affects more than just the host, Trends in Ecology & Evolution (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2023.05.018

Provided by Chapman University
Citation: Study shows observing a sick individual triggers a biological response (2023, November 28) retrieved 26 February 2024 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

Surrounded by sick coworkers? Your body is preparing for battle


Feedback to editors