As researchers and scientists across the globe work around the clock to find a vaccine for COVID-19, some immunology experts have learned that certain people might already have an immunity to the virus because they recently had a cold. According to Science Times, the immunologists published a paper that explains that patients who had colds caused by betacoronavirues - viruses that are similar to COVID-19 - were either immune to COVID or had a much more mild form of it.
Betacoronaviruses, specifically the ones called OC43 and HKU1, cause the common cold in most people, but for some it becomes a chest infection that can leave the very young and very old in critical condition. Anyone who has beaten it developed memory T-cells, which defend the body when a similar infection enters it. They are called memory cells because they remember how to beat the infection for years to come, and the experts think the possible COVID immunity they give a person can last up to 17 years.
Professor Antonio Bertoletti, an immunologist from the Duke-NUS Medical School and one of the researchers behind the study, noticed that patients who survived the SARS virus in 2003 had immune responses to COVID-19 antibodies. He and his team wrote, "These findings demonstrate that virus-specific memory T-cells induced by betacoronavirus infection are long-lasting, which supports the notion that Covid-19 patients would develop long-term T-cell immunity. Our findings also raise the intriguing possibility that infection with related viruses can also protect from or modify the pathology caused by SARS-Cov-2 [the strain of coronavirus that causes Covid-19]."
The scientists were surprised to discover that 50% of patients who hadn't been exposed to COVID-19 had defensive T-cells which could defend their immune system against it. They concluded that those memory cells came from beating common colds caused by betacoronaviruses.
Different studies conducted by various other virologists saw similar results. It's not just promising because it means some people might already have immunity to COVID, but it shows that immunity is possible, which means that if and when vaccines for it come out, they have the potential to be very effective.
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