Your immune response may have been just a dress rehearsal for the more virulent SARS-COV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. A cold, another coronas virus, produces memory cells – known as B cells – that know how to respond if you encounter the Covid virus.
People recovering from Covid-19 have a pre-existing pool of memory B cells that rapidly produce antibodies, say researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center. Memory B cells can detect pathogens and create antibodies to destroy them.
The protection is long-lasting and may even protect you for the rest of your life. Once infected by a virus, another from the same family will trigger a much faster response and could even clear an infection before it takes hold.
The fact that most of us have had a cold could also explain why so many people with Covid-19 are asymptomatic, that is, have no symptoms.
The researchers analysed blood samples from 26 people recovering from mild to moderate Covid-19 and compared them with 21 healthy donors whose samples had been collected up to 10 years ago. They measured levels of memory B cells and antibodies that target proteins that are common in all coronaviruses, such as Covid, SARS, MERS, and the common cold.
The researchers will next look at the level of protection the memory cells provide.
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(Source: mBio, 2020; 11; doi: 10.1128/mbio.01991-20)