Could T-cells from common cold help protect against COVID-19?

The common cold could hold the key to providing protection against COVID-19, according to multiple media outlets citing a recent study.

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Reuters reported that high levels of T-cells from common cold coronaviruses can have some protection against COVID-19, according to a study published by Imperial College London.

The study started in September 2020 and looked at a small sample of household COVID-19 contacts — 52 cases — and watched if the people developed a COVID-19 illness.

The 26 who did not get sick had higher levels of common cold T-cells than those who got infected.

“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,” Dr. Rhia Kundu, the study’s author, said, according to Reuters.

The study did not say how long the T-cell protection lasted.

BBC News reported that the study also did not look at ventilation and how bad of an infection the others in the household had, both of which could impact whether others would get the virus.

Right now, the COVID-19 vaccines target the spike protein. New vaccines could target other proteins that the T-cells protect against, Ajit Lalvani, the study’s co-author said, according to Reuters. The other proteins don’t seem to mutate as quickly as the spike proteins do. Spike proteins lead to other variants like omicron and lessen the effectiveness of vaccines.

Still, scientists stress that vaccines are the key to beating the pandemic, BBC News reported.

The study was published in Nature Communications, BBC News reported.

The research is not a silver bullet in defeating the coronavirus, only a look at how the body defends itself against COVID-19 and why some people develop the illness and why others do not, BBC News reported.

COVID-19 is one illness in the family of coronaviruses, which can cause “mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses,” the National Institutes of Health said in a similar study published in 2020.

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