Can COVID-19 immunity be acquired from a cold? On January 10 (local time), researchers at Imperial College London University (ICL) published a paper on this topic in the journal Nature Communications.
This study investigated the correlation between COVID-19 infection and immune cells produced by common colds in 52 people who lived with them. As a result, a person with a cold developed an ‘immune memory’. It has been shown to help prevent the COVID-19 virus. The researchers hope the study will help understand how the body’s natural immune system fights the COVID-19 virus.
However, the researchers said it is a “serious mistake” to think that a person with a recent cold history is protected from COVID-19, and emphasized that a vaccine is still important. COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus, and some common colds are caused by other coronaviruses.
In this study, the researchers investigated whether immunity to one virus could be beneficial to another. In particular, they tried to see if some people were more susceptible to COVID-19 after being exposed to the virus.
The researchers focused on T cells, which are important immune cells in the body. Some of the T cells kill infected cells with certain threats, such as a cold. When a cold is healed, the ‘immune memory’ of T cells remains in the body and can defend itself when the next virus enters.
The research began in September 2020, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers tested 52 people living with unvaccinated people who tested positive for COVID-19 for infection.
Half of this group was infected with COVID-19 during the 28-day study period, while the other half did not. Of particular note, one-third of the uninfected had significantly higher levels of T-cells in the blood than those who were infected.
The researchers believe that the immune memory is more likely to be generated when infected with another coronavirus with which it is closely related. The researchers said that in addition to immunity from a cold, ventilation and the infectivity of people living together can also be variables.
Dr. Simon Clarke, from the University of Reading, UK, said that although the study was relatively small, it could improve our understanding of how the body’s immune system fights viruses and could help create better vaccines.
Meanwhile, he pointed out, “This data should not be over-interpreted. Among patients who died or are seriously ill from COVID-19, there may be cases where they caught a cold before infection and eventually got worse.”
He emphasized, “In addition, among the viruses that cause colds, the proportion of coronaviruses is about 10 to 15 percent. Thinking that you are protected from COVID-19 with the recent cold can be a serious mistake,” he emphasized.
Additionally, the study’s lead author, Professor Ajit Lalbani, said vaccines are key to prevention.
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