This Morning's Dr Philippa reveals common cold could give you immunity from coronavirus

THE common cold could give you immunity from coronavirus, says This Morning’s Dr Philippa Kaye.

The TV medic told Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford that researchers are checking how our bodies are fighting back against the new killer bug.

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She said today: “It’s really interesting that Covid-19 is a coronavirus and we have seen lots of different coronaviruses throughout our life.

“The researchers have found out that exposure to some of those coughs and colds could give you some immunity to Covid-19.”

The Londoner – who is also an author and mum-of-three – was referring to research on the T Cell – white blood cells which are basically our immune system soldiers.

Dr Philipa added: "Our immune systems are amazing and very complex that we have a cell called the T Cell and the T Cell is what gives your immune system memory.

"Because coronavirus shares some of the same genetic material as with other coughs and colds, it could be that our body’s immune system will remember enough to help us deal with Covid-19."

Eamonn Holmes told her "we don’t know" whether other coronaviruses could boost our immunity to the new bug, prompting the doctor to reply, "we don’t know, that’s why we’re doing lots of research at the moment."

She was referring to a revelation from scientists that the common cold could protect you from coronavirus for up to 17 years.

Immunology experts claim that patients who previously had colds caused by viruses related to Covid-19 could have immunity or may develop milder symptoms.

Immunologist Professor Antonio Bertoletti and colleagues from Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore made the discovery after taking blood from 65 patients.

Of these people, 24 had recovered from Covid-19, 23 had become ill from SARS and 18 had never been exposed to either SARS or the coronavirus.

In particular, the scientists found that half of patients in the group with no exposure to either Covid-19 or SARS had "memory" T-cells which showed immune response to the animal betacoronaviruses, Covid-19 and SARS.

Betacoronaviruses, specifically OC43 and HKU1, cause common colds as well as severe chest infections in the oldest and youngest patients.

Immunity after exposure

They share many genetic features with the coronaviruses Covid-19, MERS and SARS, all of which jumped from animals to humans.

These results suggested patients' immunity developed after exposure to common colds caused by betacoronavirus or possibly from other as yet unknown pathogens.

Coronaviruses are believed to account for up to 30 per cent of all colds but it is not known specifically how many are caused by the betacoronavirus types.

The scientists say immunity may be present for many years due to the body's T-cells from attacks by previous viruses with a similar genetic make-up – even among people who have had no known exposure to Covid-19 or SARS.


T-cells – which differ from the B-cells that produce antibodies – provide another line of attack by targeting other infected cells.

They have long been thought to offer lasting protection to viruses and are often nicknamed "memory" cells. 

Similar to antibodies, they are made in response to an infection – and remain afterwards.

Further trials are needed to prove the protective effect of these cells against Covid-19 but experts say patients who recovered from the deadly lung virus SARS in 2003 show immune responses to key proteins found in Covid-19.

Our findings raise the possibility that infection with related viruses can protect from or modify the pathology caused by SARS-Cov-2

The experts said: "These findings demonstrate that virus-specific memory T-cells induced by betacoronavirus infection are long-lasting, which supports the notion that Covid-19 patients would develop long-term T-cell immunity.

"Our findings also raise the intriguing possibility that infection with related viruses can also protect from or modify the pathology caused by SARS-Cov-2 [the strain of coronavirus that causes Covid-19]."

The researchers' findings come after experts from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California similarly found last month that people who have had common colds before have cells that can attack Covid-19.

They found that exposure to other coronaviruses – such as the common cold or flu – had somehow primed patients' T cells to recognise and attack Covid-19.

It's promising news for vaccine developers because it is "consistent with normal, good, antiviral immunity," according to Shane Crotty, from the Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research at LJI.

He said: "The types of immune responses targeted by many candidate vaccines are now shown to be the types of immune responses seen in Covid-19 cases that successfully recovered from the disease."

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