Common Cold Could Protect Against Covid Infection, Study Suggests

She's been sneezing non-stop

Robert Hart


The immune response generated by previous exposure to common colds could protect against Covid-19, according to a new peer reviewed study published in Nature Communications Monday, an early but promising finding researchers say could pave the way to more long-lasting vaccines that protect against current and future variants of coronavirus.

Key Facts

People with high levels of T cells—a type of white blood cell that is a key part of the immune system—from other coronavirus infections like the common cold are less likely to contract the virus that causes Covid-19, according to a study by researchers at Imperial College London.

For the study, which took place in September 2020 (before most in the U.K. had been infected or vaccinated against Covid-19), the researchers followed 52 people living with someone who had Covid-19, half of whom went on to contract the disease.

For the half that did not get infected, blood samples taken shortly after exposure revealed higher levels of T cells from previous coronavirus infections, such as colds, that could also recognize proteins in the virus that causes Covid-19, the researchers said.

Professor Ajit Lalvani, the study’s senior author, said the findings provide “the clearest evidence to date that T cells induced by common cold coronaviruses play a protective role against” Covid and could hold the key to developing a universal vaccine that protects against current and future variants

The study said the T Cells attack proteins inside the virus, rather than the spike protein (targeted by most widely-used vaccines) on its surface, which Lalvani said mutate much less and make for more “broadly protective vaccines” between various variants.

2 thoughts on “Common Cold Could Protect Against Covid Infection, Study Suggests

  1. Coronavirus was a recognized cause of 15-20 percent of common colds when I attended medical school in 1985. Nobody tries to vaccinate against the common cold, probably because its symptoms are probably due to any number of potential pathogens. Like with most opportunistic infections, symptoms appear when the system is already weak or debilitated.


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