Having a cold ‘could help to fight off Covid’ – UCL researchers

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    number of frontline medics at high risk of contracting Covid were able to evade infection possibly because they had previously had a cold caused by a different form of coronavirus, extraordinary research suggested on Wednesday.

    The study investigated 58 London hospital staff who never tested positive for Covid despite being at high risk of exposure to the virus in the first wave of the pandemic.

    They had higher levels of T cells — the body’s immune memory cells — suggesting that these had attacked cells that had been infected with Covid and rapidly halted the spread of the virus.

    UCL’s Dr Leo Swadling said: “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.”

    The study, published in Nature, is the latest groundbreaking piece of research from the COVIDsortium research programme that was set up early in the pandemic by staff at St Bartholomew’s hospital.

    However the researchers, speaking at a briefing at the Science Media Centre, made clear that not all colds would protect against current covid infections.

    This is because only about 10 per cent of common colds are caused by a coronavirus. In addition, the study only looked at the impact of the original Wuhan strain of Covid-19, not the more infectious Delta strain that has been dominant in the UK for months.

    The published research suggests that by designing vaccines able to activate T cells, it may be possible to halt Covid far earlier if the “replication proteins” in its internal system can be disabled.

    This would be a different approach from that taken by currently available vaccines, which target the spike protein that protrudes from the Covid virus.

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