New study suggests exposure to common cold viruses may reduce COVID-19 severity.
Several months ago, I noted that like the first coronavirus pandemic, known as the Russian Flu, this one is likely to end-up as one of the many “common cold” viruses once the global population had gone through several waves of infection.
The Omicron variant may be a stop on that journey, as evidence suggests that the viral genetics now contains a bit of the common-cold virus.
The Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 likely acquired at least one of its mutations by picking up a snippet of genetic material from another virus – possibly one that causes the common cold – present in the same infected cells, according to researchers.
This genetic sequence does not appear in any earlier versions of the coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, but is ubiquitous in many other viruses including those that cause the common cold, and also in the human genome, researchers said.
By inserting this particular snippet into itself, Omicron might be making itself look “more human,” which would help it evade attack by the human immune system, said Venky Soundararajan of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based data analytics firm nference, who led the study posted on Thursday on the website OSF Preprints.
Interestingly, new research is suggestive that exposure to common cold viruses could be protective against a COVID-19 infection.
Scientists at the University of Zurich (UZH) in Switzerland recently performed an analysis demonstrating a higher level of immunity against COVID-19 in people who had been exposed to coronaviruses circulating before the pandemic.
Prof. Alexandra Trkola, lead researcher and head of the Institute of Medical Virology at UZH, and her colleagues reported their findings in Nature CommunicationsTrusted Source.
The study monitored antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 to uncover correlations with vaccine protection, disease severity, and susceptibility to infection.
The researchers also compared immune responses against SARS-CoV-2 with those against pre-pandemic coronaviruses, known as HCoVs. The four typesTrusted Source of HCoVs that cause the common cold collectively account for around 10–15% of adult infections and 2–6% of all hospital admissions for lower respiratory tract infections.
“Our study shows that a strong antibody response to human coronaviruses increases the level of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. So someone who has gained immunity to harmless coronaviruses is therefore also better protected against severe SARS-CoV-2 infections,” says Prof. Trkola.
Meanwhile, as predicted, there are more cases of the Omicron variant being reported throughout the country.
Six more U.S. states confirmed infections of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 on Friday but the Delta strain likely remains a greater threat as winter sets in and Americans gather for the holidays, experts said.
New Jersey, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Utah each reported their first cases of the Omicron variant on Friday. Missouri was awaiting CDC confirmation of a case involving a St. Louis resident who had recently traveled within the United States.
Scientists are still investigating the impact of the highly contagious Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa. Early evidence has suggested it may cause milder illness than its predecessors, including Delta.
The best approach would be to focus on treatments and allow the cold season to proceed normally. It will be better for public health, and it will be better for economic health.
The International Monetary Fund is likely to lower its global economic growth estimates due to the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the global lender’s chief said at the Reuters Next conference on Friday in another sign of the turmoil unleashed by the ever-changing pandemic.
Omicron has spread rapidly to at least 40 countries since it was first reported in South Africa last week, officials say, and many governments have tightened travel rules to try to keep it out. read more
“A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence, and in that sense, we are likely to see some downgrades of our October projections for global growth,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told the conference.
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