It Turns Out, We All May Have Some Immunity to COVID, New Study Shows
Recent research proves that our cells can help protect us from coronavirus and other pathogens.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that's still raging around the world, many are still holding onto one golden concept that could change everything: immunity. Whether that should come from a vaccine or having already been infected by the virus, the idea that the population may be able to achieve herd immunity—and effectively stop this deadly disease in its tracks—is a source of hope. And one new study shows that we may already be steps closer to COVID immunity that we thought.
A July 15 study published in Nature found that there are three separate groups that showed immunity to the coronavirus. The first consisted of COVID-19 patients who have T cells—a bunch of immune cells that can kill the virus and act as a line of defense against future pathogens. The next faction included people who had been infected with the SARS virus in 2003 and also had these same T cells.
But the final group was the most surprising to researchers: 37 study subjects had the T cells despite the fact that they were never exposed to or infected with either of the illnesses. This proves that we all may have some immunity to this strain of coronavirus built into our bodies.
"A level of pre-existing immunity against SARS-CoV2 appears to exist in the general population," Antonio Bertoletti, MD, a virologist at Duke NUS Medical School in Singapore told The New York Times.
According to the study, this third type of immunity could have been triggered by the common cold, which is caused by a more minor type of coronavirus. T cells from this mild illness may not protect you from getting COVID-19, but they would lower the severity of your case. Because so many people have had the common cold—and would therefore have these T cells—this may explain why a majority of people who have contracted COVID are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
This evidence is backed up by previous research that discovered COVID-19-reactive T cells in 40 to 60 percent of unexposed individuals. The June 25 study published in Cell concluded that these T cells identify similar danger between COVID-19 and "common cold" coronaviruses.
When it comes to curbing and containing COVID-19, Bertoletti said, "I believe that cellular and antibody immunity will be equally important." And if you want to know which regions of the U.S. have low antibody levels, check out 95 Percent of People in These States Are Still "Very Vulnerable" to COVID.