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Common cold combats Covid infection

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How do you protect yourself from a Covid-19 infection?  A vaccine or a previous infection, perhaps? Possibly—but the common cold virus could work just as well.

But it’s all a matter of timing. Exposure to the cold rhinovirus in the early stages of a Covid infection can stop it in its tracks, researchers at Yale University have discovered.

A cold infection kickstarts interferon-stimulated genes into action, and these early responders block the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in our airways, and stop it spreading.

But get the cold virus when Covid has started to take hold and it won’t be effective.

Leading the research is Ellen Foxman who noticed that the common cold protects against influenza and reckoned it could have the same blocking effect on the Covid virus.  In laboratory trials, Prof Foxman and her team discovered the Covid virus was stopped in its track by the rhinovirus.  Covid’s progress was also slowed if the dose was low even if it wasn’t exposed to the rhinovirus.

They tracked the progress of Covid through the body, with the first few days after infection being crucial, and before the body’s own defences sprang into action.  “There appears to be a viral sweet spot at the beginning of Covid-19 during which the virus replicates exponentially before it triggers a strong defense response,” she explained—and that’s the time to introduce the rhinovirus.

(Journal of Experimental Medicine, 2021; 218: e20210583)

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