The viral 'Goldilocks' phenomenon?


eMediNexus    10 December 2022

Acute infections often trigger a febrile response. Fever is a body-defense mechanism that can suppress viral replication via multiple mechanisms. On the flip side, high body temperatures can impair hostcellular and tissue function and heighten metabolic demands. In low-grade fever, the benefits are more pronounced and outweigh the disadvantages, whereas, at higher body temperatures, the deleterious effect predominates and compromises prognosis. 


Contrastingly, non-infective fever renders worse outcomes even at lower body temperatures, which indicates that hyperthermia is advantageous in the presence of infection. 


Moreover, compared to normothermia, the body’s defense mechanism is enhanced in a mild fever of infectious etiology. In comparison, higher-grade fever worsens infection prognosis and is associated with greater mortality. The effects are dissimilar in non-infectious fever as the benefits of fever may not predominate in these cases. The optimal temperature may be subjective amongst patients – just theright amount of heat may be desirable––‘Goldilocks phenomenon’––to suppress pathogen multiplication within the host. Thus, temperature modulation advice should be aptly gauged.


Source: The World Journal of Clinical Cases. 2021 Jan 16; 9(2): 296–307. doi: 10.12998/wjcc.v9.i2.296

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