Could Exposure to Common Cold Viruses Help Fight COVID-19?
A study performed by a research team based at the University of Zurich in Switzerland conducted an analysis that showed an increased immunity level against COVID-19 in individuals who were exposed to coronaviruses preceding the pandemic. The research team observed immune response to COVID-19 to identify associations with disease severity, vulnerability to infection, and vaccine protection. They also made a comparison between antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 and antibody responses against pre-pandemic coronaviruses, referred to as HCoVs.
Prof. Trkola, one of the researchers, believes that a solid immune response to human coronaviruses elevates the rate of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Therefore, an individual who is resistant to coronaviruses that are not dangerous will have better protection against serious SARS-CoV-2 viral infections. The researchers analyzed the serum samples of 825 individuals that were taken prior to the pandemic and examined the antibody response to four of the pre-pandemic coronaviruses.
Furthermore, they examined additional 389 serum samples from patients who had positive COVID-19 test results. It was discovered that individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 had a reduced rate of antibodies against pre-pandemic coronaviruses than those who did not contract the infection. In line with that, individuals with higher levels of antibodies against HCoVs who did contract SARS-CoV-2 had smaller chances of hospitalization.
These findings somewhat clarify why some people suffer from severe diseases, and others develop asymptomatic or very mild infections. Moreover, the findings suggest that having immunity to other HCoVs enhances the immune response to vaccines against COVID-19. People have the strongest immunity to COVID-19 following vaccination or after the recovery period from an infection. One can gain this immunity when the levels of COVID-19 antibodies are increased. When the antibodies start to disappear, the defense against the virus declines.
However, there is hope that vaccines against the coronavirus will further offer protection against emerging variants in the future. Nevertheless, further research is needed to investigate these expectations and theories.
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