During the pandemic, it became increasingly clear that it is the elderly who are most affected by covid-19. Young children, on the other hand, rarely get seriously ill. The reason for this has not been clear, although there are theories that colds may have a protective effect.
Now researchers at the Karolinska Institute have shown that one of the common cold viruses, OC43, which often affects young children, probably also trains their immune system against Sars Cov 2.
– We have seen that children aged between 2 and 6 who have had this cold virus also have protection against Sars Cov 2, even if they have not been previously exposed to it, says immunologist Annika Karlsson.
Blood tests showed mixed results
The researchers analyzed 48 blood samples taken from children before the pandemic. In these they found T cells that also reacted against Sars Cov 2. Blood samples from older adults did not show the same results.
– We believe that a previous infection with a cold virus helps the T cells to initiate the immune system reaction also against Sars Cov 2 in young children. In older adults, the same effect was not found. This could explain why children don’t get as sick from corona as older people, says Annika Karlsson.
The study, published in the journal PNAS, could lead to more personalized vaccine programs for children and adults.
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