This One Thing Can't Protect You From COVID After All, New Study Finds
New research has just cast doubt on this one popular theory.
For the past year, we've all been focused on one thing: avoiding COVID. While we know the basic health measures that can keep us safe from the virus—washing our hands, maintaining social distance, and wearing a mask—research has proven that some genetic or lifestyle factors may offer you added protection, like your blood type, for example. As the pandemic has gone on, many experts have surmised what exactly could be protecting people from the virus, causing some to have little or no symptoms while others are dying. Unfortunately, a new study has just shot down one major theory that would have been good news for most of us. It turns out, a common cold will not protect you from coming down with COVID. Read on to find out more, and for another way you are not staying safe, If You Wear Your Mask Like This, You're Not Getting "Maximal Protection."
A previous case of the common cold won't protect you from catching COVID.
A new study published on Feb. 9 in the journal Cell has found that having had a case of the common cold won't stop someone from getting COVID. The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania analyzed blood samples from 251 people taken before the pandemic who then went on to get infected with COVID and compared them to 251 samples from those who had not been infected with COVID. According to the study, while many of these patients had antibodies from previous cold infections, they had no impact on whether or not someone ended up contracting COVID. And for more on what makes the virus affect people differently, If You've Had This Common Illness, You're More Likely to Die From COVID.
Experts previously thought colds could provide some immunity from COVID.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the common cold is the result of a common human coronavirus. And while this coronavirus is different from SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, their connection led some experts to theorize that a previous cold could possibly produce antibodies that would protect people from the novel coronavirus.
"Going into this study, we thought we would learn that individuals that had pre-existing, pre-pandemic antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 would be less susceptible to infection and have less severe COVID-19 disease," study author Scott Hensley, PhD, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania, told The New York Times. "That's not what we found." And for more signs you could have caught the novel coronavirus, know that If You're Over 65, You Could Be Missing This COVID Symptom, Study Says.
A previous common cold may provide some level of protection from severe COVID.
The antibodies produced from common colds had little to no effect on protection against COVID infection. However, experts said that memory immune cells (which create antibodies) produced by prior common cold infections could recognize some parts of SARS-CoV-2 and attack it, lessening severe symptoms from the virus. Shane Crotty, PhD, virologist at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology in San Diego, California, told The Times that these cells may be triggered "fast enough that you would have an asymptomatic infection that you never noticed. But no, they wouldn't stop infection."
Study author Hensley further clarified this in a statement about the study, saying, "Although antibodies from prior coronavirus infections cannot prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections, it is possible that pre-existing memory B cells and T cells could potentially provide some level of protection or at least reduce the disease severity of COVID-19. Studies need to be completed to test that hypothesis." And for more up-to-date COVID news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Scientists previously thought common colds were the reason kids seemed less affected by COVID.
A previous December study published in the journal Science was one of the leading pieces of research behind the cold-COVID theory, according to The Times. This study reported that only about 5 percent of adults carried antibodies from common cold coronavirus, compared to 43 percent of children, which the researchers saw as a possible explanation as to why children are seemingly less affected by COVID-19.
However, the new study published in Cell did not find a similar pattern. According to Hensley, he and the other researchers found that about one in five people carry prior antibodies that recognize the new coronavirus, with no difference in the amounts in children versus adults. The Science study "reported very high levels of pre-pandemic cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies in kids, something that we did not find," Hensley clarified. And for more on severe cases of the virus, If You've Done This, You're Twice as Likely to Develop Severe COVID.