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Promising News on Common Cold and COVID, but With Caveats

Scientists: Catching a cold may offer some COVID protection, but vaccination is still best defense
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 10, 2022 12:01 PM CST
Catching a Cold May Bode Well in COVID Battle
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/brizmaker)

(Newser) – Could catching a cold in the age of the novel coronavirus actually be a good thing? Scientists out of Imperial College London say maybe, with new research suggesting that those who've had a common cold may be offered some protection against a future bout of COVID. Researchers have long wondered if such an immunity link was possible, as the common cold is often caused by various coronaviruses, though not by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID, reports the BBC.

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Per Reuters, immunity against COVID is a "complex picture," and T-cells are considered to play a big part in that protective role. In the admittedly small study published Monday in the Nature Communications journal, researchers examined 52 unvaccinated people who lived with others who'd recently tested positive for COVID. While half of the subjects did go on to develop COVID themselves during the 28-day study that started in September, the other half didn't. A third of those who didn't develop COVID were found to have "high levels of specific memory T-cells in their blood," which the BBC explains were probably created because the subjects had previously been infected by another coronavirus, like the common cold.

The scientists note that this finding offers further insight on how the body's immune system reacts to COVID, which could be promising for future vaccines. They warn, however, that the research shouldn't be looked at as a reason to skip vaccination and that it would be a "grave mistake" to think if you've had a cold, you're in the clear from COVID, per the BBC. Dr. Simon Clarke of the University of Reading, for example, who wasn't involved in the study, notes that coronaviruses only account for about 10% to 15% of all common colds. "While this is an important discovery, it is only one form of protection, and I would stress that no one should rely on this alone," lead author Rhia Kundu says in a release. "Instead, the best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is to be fully vaccinated, including getting your booster dose." (Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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