T cells from common cold has been identified as a protective measure against COVID, according to a study conducted by Imperial College in London.
According to the study, a type of cells produced by the body when fighting common cold viruses, known as T cells, cross-protect people against infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.
T cells have been discovered as a protective factor towards serious COVID-19, and prior study has suggested that recovering from ordinary colds may offer some protection against the COVID-19 virus.
In the new study, researchers with Imperial College London found that the presence of such T cells can also prevent infection by the Covid-19 virus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease.
52 contacts of newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases were accessed by researchers, to pinpoint when they were first exposed and determined that people who tested negative for COVID-19 had higher levels of cross-reactive T cell. They also took blood samples from the participants within 6 days of exposure.
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“Being exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus doesn’t always result in infection, and we’ve been keen to understand why. 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 lead author, of Imperial’s National Heart & Lung Institute, said in a statement.
Professor Ajit Lalvani, another author, said the study “provides the clearest evidence to date that T cells induced by common cold coronaviruses play a protective role against SARS-CoV-2 infection,” adding that “these T cells provide protection by attacking proteins within the virus, rather than the spike protein on its surface.”
The discovery might aid scientists in developing a new COVID-19 vaccine, according to the researchers.
“The spike protein is under intense immune pressure from vaccine-induced antibody which drives evolution of vaccine escape mutants. In contrast, the internal proteins targeted by the protective T cells we identified mutate much less. Consequently, they are highly conserved between the various SARS-CoV-2 variants, including omicron,” Lalvani said. “New vaccines that include these conserved, internal proteins would therefore induce broadly protective T cell responses that should protect against current and future SARS-CoV-2 variants.”
They also urged people that it is always a wise decision to get a COVID-19 vaccine instead of relying on the protection from cross-reactive T cells.
The currently available vaccines have proven less effective against the latest The current vaccinations have shown to be ineffective against the Omicron version of the Covid-19 virus, even when severe illness is present. While booster doses reinstate part of the lost immunity, early evidence suggests that the boost’s effectiveness against infection soon diminishes after it is given. It’s unclear whether boosters last for extended durations.
The study was published in Nature and was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit and the Medical Research Council.
The limited amount of participants and the notion that 88 percent of them were white were both limitations.
An associate professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, Dr. Simon Clarke, was not involved with the study. Dr. Clarke said that since many colds are not caused by coronaviruses, therefore people who have had colds should not assume they are protected against SARS-CoV-2.
“Although this is a relatively small study, it adds to our understanding of how our immune system fights the virus and shows that future vaccines might benefit from targeting components in addition to the spike protein,” he added.