Why Getting the Common Cold May Reduce Your Risk of COVID-19

  • Recent research published in Nature Communications Trusted Source examined patients who were exposed to the coronavirus early in the epidemic.
  • They discovered that patients with certain T-cells were less likely to develop COVID-19.
  • These T-cells are most frequently produced when a person has a common cold.

According to recent research, those who have recovered from the common cold are considerably less likely to get COVID-19.

The research, which was published in Nature Communications on January 10th, looked at those who were exposed to the coronavirus early in the epidemic.

They discovered that patients who had particular kinds of T-cells, which were most likely generated after a typical cold, were less likely to acquire COVID-19.


“The study’s findings imply that the immune response induced by earlier exposure to common cold viruses may protect against COVID-19,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, told USAHealthline.

These discoveries, according to the researchers, might give the “blueprint” for a universal vaccination that could protect against infection from existing and future variations.

Everyone in the study lived with someone who had COVID-19

Researchers from Imperial College London started the research in September 2020, when the majority of the United Kingdom had not been infected with or vaccinated against, COVID-19.

The participants in the research were 52 persons who lived with someone who had a PCR-confirmed illness. Participants were given PCR tests at the start of the study, as well as 4 and 7 days later to see whether they were sick.

Within 1 to 6 days of exposure, all subjects gave blood samples. This allowed scientists to examine existing levels of immune system T-cells from a prior cold that identified proteins in the pandemic virus.

According to the results of the research, individuals who did not acquire COVID-19 as a result of their exposure had greater amounts of specific T-cells than the 26 who did. According to the researchers, this is due to the fact that those immune cells may target the virus’s internal proteins rather than simply the spike protein on its surface.

COVID-19’s internal proteins, according to experts, are significantly less susceptible to mutations that result in new variations.

“The spike protein is under severe immunological pressure from the vaccine-induced antibody, which promotes the evolution of vaccination escape mutants,” said lead scientist Professor Ajit Lalvani in a release.

COVID-19 is killed by T-cells before it spreads

T-cells are immunological cells that provide cell-mediated immunity, according to Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, head of global health at Staten Island University Hospital.

“[This] implies they can go to virus-infected cells and destroy them before the virus has the potential to propagate and continue to exploit the cells’ machinery to generate more virus,” he stated.

He stressed that although this does not help prevent infection, it does affect how unwell someone gets and how soon they recover.

The authors of the study said that present vaccinations do not elicit an immune response to COVID-19 internal proteins, but that this discovery may influence how future vaccines are created.

They also believe that, when combined with spike protein-targeting vaccines, internal proteins will give a novel vaccination target with the potential to deliver longer-lasting protection. This is due to the fact that T-cell responses remain longer than antibody responses, which diminish within months following vaccination.

“In essence,” Glatter noted, “creation of a universal vaccination that generates a strong T-cell response across variations should lessen the need for continuing boosters over the next few years.”

The ‘clearest evidence’ that the common cold has a protective effect

New vaccines containing these “conserved, internal proteins,” according to Lalvani, might elicit a T-cell response that would “protect against existing and future SARS-CoV-2 variations.”

“Our findings offer the most conclusive evidence to date that T-cells generated by common cold coronaviruses protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection.” “These T-cells defend the virus by targeting proteins inside the virus rather than the spike protein on its surface,” Lalvani said in a statement.

This is not to say that acquiring a cold is a better way to protect yourself than being vaccinated.

“It does not provide total protection since the immune response, particularly T-cell generation, varies throughout the population and is impacted by age and underlying medical disorders,” Glatter said.

“However, it shows that T-cells give an extra and enduring layer of protection — and long-term immunity against SARS-CoV-2,” he said.

The findings may not affect how we tackle COVID-19

“I’m not convinced there’s anything here that hasn’t previously been thought of in the innovation column versus COVID,” Cioe-Pena added.

He said that, although this may give new targets for pharmacological and vaccine treatment, he does not believe it will significantly alter how we tackle COVID-19.

In conclusion

According to a new study, previous exposure to the common cold may give considerable protection from acquiring COVID-19 from exposure.

According to experts, the immune reaction to a prior cold generates immune cells that target COVID-19’s internal proteins rather than the surface “spikes.” This might lead to the development of new, longer-lasting vaccinations.

They also argue that suffering a cold doesn’t imply you don’t need to be vaccinated, since the protection isn’t powerful enough to avoid sickness.

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