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Common Cold May Offer Some Protection Against COVID-19

Immune response to rhinovirus hinders coronavirus replication in key respiratory cells, study finds

by Peter Urban, AARP, March 31, 2021 | Comments: 2 Reprint from AARP

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Scientists studying viruses at the University of Glasgow have found that the common cold triggers an immune response that may provide some protection against COVID-19, but they aren’t encouraging people to catch a cold just yet. More research is needed to understand the impact on disease transmission that occurs when the two viruses interact.


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“We can then use this knowledge to our advantage, hopefully developing strategies and control measures for COVID-19 infections,” study coauthor Pablo Murcia, a professor of integrative virology at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, said in a statement. “In the meantime, vaccination is our best method of protection against COVID-19.”

In a laboratory experiment, the researchers found that human respiratory cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 struggled to replicate that virus when the cells were exposed to human rhinovirus (HRV). In theory, the result would likely limit the ability of the coronavirus to infect a person.

“These findings have important implications, as they suggest that immune-mediated effects induced by mild, common cold virus infections, including HRV, might confer some level of protection against SARS-CoV-2, potentially attenuating the severity of COVID-19,” according to the study, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.


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In mathematical simulations, the researchers found that the interaction between the viruses is likely to have “a population-wide effect as an increasing prevalence of rhinovirus will reduce the number of new COVID-19 cases.”

Peter Urban is a contributing writer and editor who focuses on health news. Urban spent two decades working as a correspondent in Washington, D.C., for daily newspapers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, California and Arkansas, including a stint as Washington bureau chief for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His freelance work has appeared in Scientific AmericanBloomberg Government and CTNewsJunkie.com.