In normal times, this would be the season you’d start to wonder whether that sniffle you’re developing is the result of a cold or allergies.
This spring, in particular, you’d want to hope it’s a cold.
That’s because researchers have found that the virus that causes the common cold can effectively boot its coronavirus relative, COVID, out of the body’s cells.
Let’s say the cold virus is an introvert and COVID is an extrovert. You’re roommates, and you want a quiet evening in, but C-19 keeps inviting strangers over for a bit of an event. You have words. You win.
You win because you’re “one of the most selfish viruses around.” That’s not your infectious flatmate speaking, but it’s what scientists have discovered about the rhinovirus. You refuse to share space with other types of bugs — and that’s a blessing right now, as you and the many others like you can actually help suppress COVID, a study says.
Some viruses are known to compete in order to be the one that causes an infection, the BBC reports. You, the rhinovirus, are the one that creates the most widespread of infections in people — you’re a cause of the common cold — and you are just itching to get into the throats and lungs of everyone around right now. But you want to be the only virus inhabiting those spaces.
Pfizer exec sees ‘significant opportunity’ to increase COVID vaccine price for annual booster shot
EU points fingers at AstraZeneca as vaccine rift with U.K. widens
New AstraZeneca trial finds it’s 79 per cent effective and poses no increased risk of blood clots
Scientists at the University of Glasgow note that “the human respiratory tract hosts a diverse community of co-circulating viruses that are responsible for acute respiratory infections. This shared niche provides the opportunity for virus-to-virus interactions, which have the potential to affect individual infection risks and in turn influence dynamics of infection at population scales.”
The virus that causes COVID, known as Sars-CoV-2, is a coronavirus — which causes cough, fever or chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, headache, new fatigue, nausea or vomiting and congestion or runny nose — and these extroverts are rather more inclined to try bringing on a cough cacophony than spend time circulating out in the crisp evening air.
So, let’s get this party started: the Centre for Virus Research in Glasgow replicated the lining of a person’s airways, the BBC said, made out of the same types of cells, and infected it with Sars-CoV-2 and rhinovirus. They analyzed diagnostic data from 44,230 cases of respiratory illness that were tested for 11 taxonomically broad groups of respiratory viruses over nine years, accounting for age and time of year.
They found that if you (the cold bug) and your roommate (COVID) were released into a body simultaneously, you would win territory. If given a 24-hour head start, you’d have a dozen planks nailed in the door, barring entry to Sars-CoV-2. And if COViD were to have a 24-hour head start, you could come along, rip that door open with your bare hands and kick that guy out.
“Sars-CoV-2 never takes off; it is heavily inhibited by rhinovirus,” Dr. Pablo Murcia told BBC News, adding that “this is absolutely exciting because if you have a high prevalence of rhinovirus, it could stop new Sars-CoV-2 infections.”
If you have a high prevalence of rhinovirus, it could stop new Sars-CoV-2 infectionsDr. Pablo Murcia
The cold virus was shown to trigger an immune response in infected cells, blocking the ability of Sars-CoV-2 to make copies of itself. And when scientists blocked the immune response, levels of the COVID virus were the same as if rhinovirus was not there.
Other introvert/extrovert pairings have shown similar effects. For example, a large rhinovirus outbreak may have delayed the 2009 swine flu H1N1 pandemic in France.
However, as most party crashers know, one failed infiltration doesn’t mean it’s all over. It just requires patience on the part of C-19. Your COVID roomie could cause an infection once its target’s cold had passed and the immune response had calmed down.
Prof. Lawrence Young of Warwick Medical School in England said the study suggests “this common infection could impact the burden of COVID-19 and influence the spread of Sars-CoV-2, particularly over the autumn and winter months when seasonal colds are more frequent.”
“Vaccination, plus hygiene measures, plus the interactions between viruses could lower the incidence of Sars-CoV-2 heavily,” Dr. Murcia said, “but the maximum effect will come from vaccination.”
Exactly how this party goes down in future winters is unknown. That C-19 roomie is likely to still be lurking, and all the other infections that have been suppressed during the pandemic thanks to physical distancing could be ready to dance as immunity to them wanes.
Best get in an order of 2x4s and a good hammer.