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Coronavirus: Rhinovirus can equip the immune system to ward off other diseases



How a cold could help ward off Covid-19: Rhinovirus can restart the body’s antiviral defenses and equip the immune system to ward off other diseases, scientists say

  • A municipality’s suffering could provide protection against the coronavirus
  • Yale University experts found that the rhinovirus triggers our antiviral defenses
  • They are now investigating whether it can do the same against the coronavirus

Suffering a common cold could provide protection against contracting Covid, scientists believe.

Experts from Yale University in the United States found that being attacked by the rhinovirus – the most common cause of the common cold – triggers the body’s antiviral defenses, equipping the immune system to ward off other viruses.

They are now investigating whether it does the same against the coronavirus.

The body fights the rhinovirus by producing interferon.

Scientists previously weren’t sure whether the interferon produced in response to one virus would recognize another, but the Yale study suggests that exposure to the rhinovirus created an immune response against the flu, suggesting it would protect against other viruses.

Yale University experts believe suffering from a common cold may provide protection against contracting the Covid-19 virus (photo file)

They are now considering whether introducing the cold virus before Covid-19 virus infection offers similar protection.

Dr Ellen Foxman, of Yale School of Medicine, said that interferon’s defenses only work at the beginning of infection, so they can be used as “a way to temporarily protect high-risk people.”

Dr Foxman said: “The common cold virus triggers the normal antiviral defenses of these cells that form the lining of the airways.”

“So the cells that make up the lining of the airways are where all of these viruses need to grow.

“This includes the flu, the common cold, Covid-19 – virtually all viruses that you get from breathing in them all grow in this tissue that forms the lining of the airways.”

He added: “This response, the interferon response, which is this general defense mechanism against all viruses, we know the response works against Covid-19.

“If you do the experiment in a laboratory, you can apply this chemical – interferon – to the cells, so you can also block the virus that causes Covid-19.”

‘So it’s possible we’ll see the same thing, but we’re just starting to experiment.

“Sometimes you see unexpected things happen, so you just have to do the experiment and see what the result is and that at the moment it’s just a work in progress.”

Foxman said she thought interferon-based immunity lasted about a week, possibly up to two, adding that it didn’t prevent infection forever.

But he explained it could provide a “temporary buffer against taking another virus” while the body is all “high” to fight it.

Scientists have found that rhinovirus, the most common cause of the common cold, triggers the body's antiviral defenses, equipping the immune system to ward off other viruses (file photo)

Scientists have found that rhinovirus, the most frequent cause of the common cold, triggers the body’s antiviral defenses, equipping the immune system to ward off other viruses (file photo)

However, the expert said that while she was confident this could be applied to the flu, Covid-19 is unpredictable.

“One unpredictable thing is the entrance receptor that Covid-19 uses to enter your body – there have been some reports that it can be increased by interferon.

“So, we just have to test how important this is, compared to having these antiviral defenses ready,” said Dr. Foxman.

He said that interferon’s defenses can be very powerful against many viruses, but that they only work at the beginning of the infection as they prevent the virus from growing.

Dr Foxman said interferons are already being used as antiviral treatments for other conditions, and studies of their use in the fight against Covid-19 indicate that if given early enough during infection, there could be benefits.

He added: “Perhaps we can think more seriously about triggering this general response as a way to temporarily protect high-risk people who are at high risk of being exposed.”

He warned that the interferon response triggers many of the same symptoms as a cold, adding, “When it comes to preventing a more serious virus, maybe it makes sense.”

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