LONDON — Want to protect yourself against COVID-19? A new study suggests catching a common cold. Researchers from Imperial College London say immune cells which activate to fight off common cold coronaviruses have cross-protective powers against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The discovery provides a blueprint for a second-generation, universal vaccine that would combat current and future COVID variants, including Omicron. Scientists found cold viruses trigger T cells that reduce the risk of infection.
Researchers examined 52 people exposed to COVID, half of whom eventually tested positive for the illness. Those with more T cells — the body’s immune cells which develop in the bone marrow and fight infections — had previous exposure to other coronaviruses, such as the common cold.
“Being exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus doesn’t always result in infection, and we’ve been keen to understand why. We found that high levels of pre-existing T cells, created by the body when infected with other human coronaviruses like the common cold, can protect against COVID-19 infection,” says first author Dr. Rhia Kundu in a university release.