By: Dr. Bruce Fife, ND,CN
Recent research shows that 60-80 percent of us already have antibodies that could protect us from COVID-19. Previous exposure to coronaviruses responsible for the common cold allows your immune system to recognize and fight off COVID-19.
As the scientific community frantically searches for a new vaccine to fight COVID-19, the need for a vaccine might not be so critical. Researchers have recently discovered that previous exposure to some forms of the common cold can provide long-term immunity against COVID-19. Studies have shown that 60-80 percent of the population may already be immune to the coronavirus.[1 / 2]
Every fall as cold and flu season rolls around millions of people experience the sinus congestion, coughing and sneezing, and general lack of energy associated with the common cold. The common cold is caused by a virus—a number of viruses actually. There are some 200 viruses that can cause the symptoms associated with the common cold. The most common are rhinoviruses, accounting for over 50 percent of all cases. The next most common are coronaviruses, responsible for as much as 30 percent of cases. The rest are caused by various other respiratory viruses.
There are four human coronavirus (HCoV) associated with the common cold: HCoV-NL63, HCoV-229E, HCoV-OC43, and HCoV-HKU1. These viruses cause only a mild upper respiratory infection typical of a common cold and are resolved on their own after a week or two. Like rhinoviruses and influenza, they appear seasonally each year and are found worldwide.
Since 2002, three new coronavirus (CoV) have surfaced (SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2, and MERS-CoV). When they first appeared, each provoked large-scale epidemics, spreading quickly to numerous countries. However, only the latest, SARS-CoV-2, was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, has similar genetic features as other coronaviruses, including the human coronaviruses that are known to cause the common cold. If an individual has been previously exposed to any of the coronaviruses, the body develops memory T cells, which become a defense system when other coronaviruses attack the body, resulting in immunity against the viruses.
T cells, a type of white blood cell, is a prominent part of the immune system, priming the body to quickly respond to invasion from viruses and other organisms. Because of their ability to create lasting defense against viruses, they are called “memory cells.”
Currently, medical researchers worldwide are frantically seeking to develop antivirals and vaccines to fight COVID-19. As a result of this research, a number of studies have discovered that people who have been exposed to other coronaviruses, such as SARS and human coronavirues, specifically HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1, have antibodies that protect them against COVID-19.
According to a team of researchers from Duke University and the National University of Singapore, immune protection against COVID-19 derived from a previous coronavirus infection can last at least 17 years and perhaps for life. In contrast, the vaccines that are currently being developed for COVID-19 produce such low levels of antibodies that multiple injections are required and the immunity that is achieved wears off in time so that revaccination would likely be needed every year.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic it was predicted that tens of millions of people would be infected. However, the actual number of cases has been far lower than anticipated. Since human coronaviruses are among the seasonal infections that come and go every year, many people have been infected and have developed a natural long-lasting immunity. This may have been why the number of people infected with COVID-19 has been lower than expected.
That cold you had last year or the year before, may have been the thing that kept you healthy and unaffected by COVID-19 this year. Although many government and public health officials are insisting we need a vaccine before we can get back to normal, most of us already have immunity to the coronavirus.
Reprinted with permission by Dr. Bruce Fife, ND, CN