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Researchers from Yale University found that exposure to rhinovirus, the most common virus that causes the cold, can jump-start the immune system and protect people against the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

The presence of the virus that causes the common cold can begin the activity of interferon-stimulated genes. These are some of the early-response molecules in the immune system. If a person with the cold inhales SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, there is a chance that it cannot replicate if it lands in the same airway tissues that are infected with the cold. (Related: If you’ve ever had a cold, your immune system may already know how to fight COVID-19.)

The new study, published on Tuesday, June 15 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, examined rhinoviruses. These researchers had previously found that the immune system’s response to the common cold can protect people against the flu. They wanted to see if this kind of response could be replicated and offer similar protection against COVID-19.

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