Catching a cold could help you fight off coronavirus, new research finds

11 November 2021, 14:37

Catching a cold could help you fight off coronavirus
Catching a cold could help you fight off coronavirus. Picture: Getty Images

Scientists have found that getting a common cold could give some protection against Covid by giving patients a ‘head start’.

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A new study has revealed that recovering from a cold could provide some protection against catching coronavirus.

Researchers at University College London conducted the research on 750 hospital staff in London.

They found that 58 of them had never tested positive from Covid, despite being at high risk of exposure during the first wave of the pandemic.

These people had higher levels of T cells, which are the body’s immune memory cells and can offer protection against a range of coronaviruses.

People recovering from colds could have some immunity to Coronavirus
People recovering from colds could have some immunity to Coronavirus. Picture: Getty Images

The results of the study were published in the medical journal Nature, with author Dr Leo Swadling saying exposure a cold could have given these people protections.

He told The Telegraph: “Previous common cold exposure may have given these individuals a head start against the virus, tipping the balance in favour of their immune system eliminating the virus before it could start to replicate.”

Dr Andrew Freedman, reader in infectious diseases at Cardiff University School of Medicine, also said: “This is an important study which may help to explain why some people who were repeatedly exposed to Covid-19 before the vaccine rollout apparently did not catch it.

“It appears that some of them had pre-existing memory T cell immunity to a protein involved in replication of the virus, probably induced by previous infection with other seasonal coronaviruses.

“The immune system was able to clear the virus rapidly before it could cause symptoms or be detected either by PCR or antibody production.”

Research also found some of the workers experienced a very low-level infection that wasn't picked up by routine tests at all.

However, scientists were quick to point out that not all colds would protect against coronavirus.

Speaking at a briefing at the Science Media Centre, they said only about 10 per cent of common colds are caused by a coronavirus.

You could be less likely to catch coronavirus if you have just had a common cold
You could be less likely to catch coronavirus if you have just had a common cold. Picture: Alamy

As well as this, the study only looked at the impact of the original strain of Covid-19, not other strains such as the Delta strain.

Following the results, it’s hoped new vaccines can be designed to activate T cells, which may put a stop to Covid far earlier and offer an 'additional layer of protection' to the current jabs.

Professor Mala Maini, the senior study author, said: “A vaccine that can induce T cells to recognise and target infected cells expressing these proteins... would be more effective at eliminating early SARS-CoV-2, and may have the added benefit that they also recognise other coronaviruses that currently infect humans or that could in the future.

“This dual-action vaccine would provide more flexibility against mutations, and because T cells can be incredibly long-lived could also provide longer-lasting immunity.”