Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

Common cold viruses inhibit antibody immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection

Maureen McGargill, Ph.D., Department of Immunology, and graduate student Chun-Yang Lin. Credit: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Previous coronavirus infection, which causes the common cold, inhibits the antibody’s immune response against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. The results from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital appeared in print today in the journal Cell host and microbe.

“The results highlight an additional factor that contributes to the range of COVID-19 symptoms and their severity,” said the corresponding author Maureen McGargill, Ph.D., from St. Louis. Jude Department of Immunology.

“The results also support COVID-19 vaccination, which appears to override the disadvantage of previous immunity to common cold viruses,” she said.

Similar viruses, different antibodies

The viruses that cause COVID-19 and the common cold belong to the same large family of coronaviruses. Early in life, most people in the world have been infected with all four common cold coronaviruses, including two coronaviruses with features and structures with pronounced similarities to SARS-CoV-2.

“Prior to this study, there were conflicting reports on how pre-existing immunity to common cold viruses affected susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection,” McGargill said.

To account for individual differences in antibody levels against common cold viruses, researchers measured antibody levels from the same person before and after SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination.

The results showed that viruses were similar enough that SARS-CoV-2 infection increased the level of cold coronavirus antibodies, but these antibodies did not neutralize or block SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Investigators found that high levels of pre-existing antibodies to common cold viruses correlated with higher levels of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies after infection, an indicator of greater disease severity.

Further findings

  • Levels of pre-existing antibodies to the common cold coronavirus varied dramatically from person to person. The same was true after SARS-CoV-2 infection or vaccination.
  • Higher baseline levels of beta-coronavirus antibodies or a greater increase in these antibodies following SARS-CoV-2 infection were associated with increased antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. Elevated antibodies to the pandemic virus were associated with more severe disease measured by antibody levels.
  • Researchers did not find a similar association between baseline coronavirus antibodies and SARS-CoV2 antibodies after COVID-19 vaccination. It suggests that vaccines may induce an immune response that is strong enough to override the antibody production benefit of common cold viruses.
  • Investigators reported that the production of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies was inhibited in SARS-CoV-2 immunized mice previously immunized against common cold coronavirus.

Exposure to harmless coronavirus increases SARS-CoV-2 immunity


More information:
Chun-Yang Lin et al., Existing humoral immunity to cold viruses in humans adversely affects the protective SARS-CoV-2 antibody response, Cell host and microbe (2021). DOI: 10.1016 / j.chom.2021.12.005

Provided by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Citation: Common cold coronavirus prevents antibody immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection (2022, January 13) Retrieved January 14, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-01-common-cold-coronaviruses-hinder- antibody. html

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