THE COMMON cold could protect you from contracting coronavirus, experts believe.
Researchers have found that the most frequent cause of the common cold – the rhinovirus, could jump start the body’s antiviral defences.
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In turn, they say this could provide protection against Covid-19.
A study by scientists at Yale University found that the presence of the rhinovirus triggered production of the antiviral agent interferon.
This is part of the early immune system response to the invasion of pathogens.
So far in the UK, more than 42,000 people have died from the coronavirus and experts are now looking at whether the introduction of the cold virus before infection by the Covid-19 virus offers a similar type of protection.
Dr Ellen Foxman, of the Yale School of Medicine said the common cold virus triggers the normal antiviral defences of these cells that form the lining of the airway.
She explained: “So the cells that form the lining of the airway is where all these viruses need to go to grow.
“That includes flu, common cold, Covid-19 – basically all the viruses that you get by breathing them in, they all grow in this tissue that forms the lining of your airway.”
Dr Foxman said this response – the interferon response is known to work against Covid-19.
She added: “If you do the experiment in a lab, you can apply this chemical – interferon – to cells, then you can block the virus that causes Covid-19 as well.
“So it’s possible that we’ll see the same thing, but we’re just beginning to do the experiments.
“Sometimes you see unexpected things happening so you have to just do the experiment and see what the result is and that that’s just a work in progress at the moment.”
She added that interferon-based immunity lasted up to two weeks, but highlighted that it did not prevent infection forever.
Dr Foxman explained it may provide a “temporary buffer against getting another virus” while the body is all “revved up” to fight it.
She added that while she was “sure” this could be applied to conditions such as the flu – she said Covid-19 is unpredictable.
“One unpredictable thing is the entry receptor that Covid-19 uses to get inside your body – there have been some reports that can be increased by interferon.
“So, we just have to test how important is that, compared to having these antiviral defences at the ready, ” Dr Foxman added.
She said that interferon defences can be very potent against a lot of viruses, but that they only work early in infection as they stop the virus from growing.
Interferons are already used as antiviral treatments for other conditions.
She added that trials have indicated that their use in combating Covid-19 indicate that if given early enough in infection, there may be some benefit.
She added: “Maybe we can think harder about just triggering this general response as a way of temporarily protecting people who are at high risk – who are in high risk of being exposed.”
She said when the body responds to interferon – it could trigger the same symptoms as a cold and said that catching the virus early was key as it is a very short-term defence, and contact tracing was a good way to do this.
“It could also make people more inclined to participate in contact tracing, if they knew there was an early intervention available”, Dr Foxman continued.
She stressed that this was all speculation and that the studies still needed to be conducted.
Dr Foxman’s comments on contact tracing comes after thousands of Brits were told they were exposed to the coronavirus.
A technical glitch with the NHS Test & Trace programme meant that Public Health England (PHE) had missed 15,841 cases from their official stats.
Daily infection rates shot up by a record high of 22,961 on Sunday, which officials said was “artificially high” because it included missed cases from the last week.