This One Common Ailment Could Boost Your Coronavirus Immunity

New research says exposure to the virus that causes the common cold may help you fight COVID-19.

One of the many important uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus is whether or not people can build up an immunity to it. Understanding why the virus attacks certain people so differently—and what that means for their ability to fight and develop coronavirus immunity—is among the most crucial components to stopping the spread. And while much is still unknown, promising new research out of the La Jolla Institute of Immunology not only found scientific evidence that recovered coronavirus patients have the ability to develop immunity, but even those who have never been infected with COVID-19 may have the ability to fight it off. How? If they've recently had the common cold.

The study, published in the journal Cell, examined the T cells in 11 blood samples from people who had been infected by some type of coronavirus in the last two years. And the researchers found that T cells in recovered patients could target the novel coronavirus. The findings are "consistent with normal, good, antiviral immunity," Shane Crotty, PhD, from the Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, told Reuters. 

What's more, the findings indicate that a person may already have the T cells to attack COVID-19 without having been previously infected with that specific strain of the coronavirus. In fact, because these T cells were found in some individuals who had not been infected with COVID-19, the study suggests that past exposure to other types of coronaviruses, including those that cause the common cold, may account for a person's immune system already having the cells to identify and attack the new coronavirus.

According to Crotty, this means people could possibly avoid becoming infected with COVID-19, or at least lower their chances of developing a severe case of the disease, if they've had the common cold.

While more research and scientific evidence is needed to determine what, if any, definitive role exposure to other coronaviruses plays in building a person's immunity to COVID-19—and whether or not reinfection remains a possibility—the study's findings are promising evidence that immunity is possible.

As for the potential of reinfection, Crotty added: "People were really worried that COVID-19 doesn't induce immunity, and reports about people getting reinfected reinforced these concerns, but knowing now that the average person makes a solid immune response should largely put those concerns to rest." And to learn more on how COVID-19 attacks those infected with the virus, Here's How Coronavirus Affects Your Body, From Your Head to Toes.

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