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Experts believe short-lived immune response triggered by human rhinovirus may ‘block’ the new coronavirusIf a nasty cold has left you feeling bunged up, new research findings may offer some consolation – you could also have greater protection against Covid-19.

Scientists from the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research believe that the human rhinovirus, the usual culprit for the common cold, triggers an “innate immune response” that appears to block the replication of Sars-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the new coronavirus, in cells of the respiratory tract. 

This immune response may provide “some level of transient protection” against infection and also reduce the severity of Covid cases, according to the experts.

Study leader Professor Pablo Murcia told BBC Newshour that although the protection gained was “short lived”, mathematical models run by his team indicate that rhinovirus infections are “so widespread that they can help suppress” Covid. 

“We observed that when you have high prevalence of rhinovirus, that decreases the number of Covid-19 infections at the population level,” Murcia said. 

He added that the next goal is to “understand the mechanisms which underpin these interactions at the molecular level” – a step that could pave the way for the development of new drugs and therapies to fight Covid, which has now killed more than 126,000 people in the UK alone.

The new research supports findings from a similar study conducted last year by experts from University College London and the Francis Crick Institute that also suggested antibodies created by the immune system in response to colds may protect against the new coronavirus.

The London team found that some study participants had antibodies that “recognised” Sars-CoV-2 even though they had not been infected, says science journal Nature.

Around 5% of the 302 uninfected adult participants had antibodies that recognised the virus, as did more than 60% of subjects aged six to 16 – the demographic in which antibodies to common colds are most common.