Could a cold teach your body to fight COVID-19?

Person in bed, blowing nose in tissue

Last updated on January 27th, 2023 at 12:42 pm

The common cold is caused by viruses in the same family as those that cause COVID-19. Now, a recent study finds that immune cells from previous cold infections may help the body fight the virus causing COVID-19.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, may explain why some people have milder COVID-19 infections compared with others.

Once the body fights off a virus, such as the common cold, it retains some disease-fighting cells as memory cells. The next time a person is exposed to the same type of virus, a memory cell recognizes it and it’s ready to fight the disease again. This gives the immune system a head start in combating the disease.

A team of researchers tested blood samples to identify these memory cells that recognize the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

More research is needed to determine how large a role these memory cells play in fighting COVID-19, but having a strong response from these cells “may give you the opportunity to mount a much quicker and stronger response,” said researcher Alessandro Sette, Ph.D.

It is still important to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines by wearing a recommended mask or face covering and staying 6 feet away from people who do not live with you.

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