The government's plan to tackle coronavirus has relied largely on vaccines, but a new study suggests exposure to a common illness may also help in a small way.
Fighting off an illness means that the antibodies created to fight it remain in the system long after.
Vaccines work in a similar way by taking in a small amount of a harmless form of a particular disease. Your body then reacts by creating antibodies to fight it off.
When a harmful form of the disease comes into contact with a person's immune system, then it already has the knowledge to deal with the illness if they have had the illness or vaccine. This is key for immunity, or to be able to fight off the disease more easily.
However, fighting off one illness does not mean a person will automatically be able to avoid catching another.
Despite this, new research indicates that a common illness that affects Brits every year could help with fighting off the coronavirus.
Does having the cold help protect against the coronavirus?
The body's immune response to catching the common cold could ward off the coronavirus
A new study has drawn the conclusion that people who catch a cold are may cope better with Covid.
Not everyone who comes into contact with the coronavirus develops an infection and scientists have been looking into why this is the case.
Dr Rhia Kundu, first author of the study, from Imperial's National Heart & Lung Institute, said: "Being exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus doesn't always result in infection, and we've been keen to understand why.
"We found that high levels of pre-existing T-cells, created by the body when infected with other human coronaviruses like the common cold, can protect against COVID-19 infection."
The results published in the study could mean that scientists try a different tack when developing vaccines to protect people against the virus.
Viruses have different parts to them and the current vaccines target something known as a spike protein. Spike proteins are more likely to mutate and change and give rise to new variants, like the Omicron variant.
Dr Kundu said: "While this is an important discovery, it is only one form of protection, and I would stress that no one should rely on this alone.
"Instead, the best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is to be fully vaccinated, including getting your booster dose."
What are T-cells?
The T-cells produced when fighting off a cold could be key to helping produce more efficient vaccines
Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF)
T-cells are a type of white blood cell that help to protect the body from infection.
The coronavirus' inner proteins are targeted by the T-cells the body creates.
So, if a person has more T-cells ready to fight off the infection already, such as the ones produced when a person catches a cold, then they should be in a better position to fight off other coronaviruses like Covid-19.
Dr Khundu said: "We found that high levels of pre-existing T cells, created by the body when infected with other human coronaviruses like the common cold, can protect against COVID-19 infection."
Professor Ajit Lalvani said: "In contrast, the internal proteins targeted by the protective T-cells we identified mutate much less."
"Consequently, they are highly conserved between the various SARS-CoV-2 variants, including Omicron.
"New vaccines that include these conserved, internal proteins would therefore induce broadly protective T cell responses that should protect against current and future SARS-CoV-2 variants."