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It’s All About the T-Cells

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A COVID commentary & update, from a practicing cardiologist.
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One third of all common cold infections are caused by coronaviruses, like HCoV-NL63, HCoV-229E, HKU1, and HCOV-OC43. In general if you ever had a bad cold but tested negative for the flu there is a reasonable chance you were infected with a human coronavirus and some, especially the elderly and immunosuppressed, hospitalized from its complications. It’s also possible that hundreds of years ago these mild cold-like infections were more virulent and dangerous.

There are no vaccines to these viruses, although like COVID-19 they do have the same spike protein that could be targeted. There are just too many, and although they likely result in billions of illnesses they are rarely life-threatening. They also undergo lots of random mutation, just like we are seeing with COVID, rendering vaccines less effective

What we are learning about with Omnicron is that nature is usually far more random and ingenious than the simple minds of humans.

We encourage the spread of the virus.

The unvaccinated walking about without masks.

The person who is symptomatic but relies on a single COVID antigen test to rationalize they are OK to go to that party.

The children who are unvaccinated but exposed to a household member and go to school the next day or a sporting event because their parents don’t want them to miss it.

The cruise lines who mandate vaccinations for all except children, as if a toddler cannot contract or transmit the disease.

Countries that close down travel from African nations when it shortly becomes obvious, as it did in January 2020, that the variant is already inside your door.

The lack of sensitive and specific testing, most known as a PCR test, available to anyone who needs it and in a timely manner; it seems that only the politicians have this honor.

A vaccine that was developed over a year ago that targets only a spike protein, and was bound to be figured out by the randomness of billions and billions of random mutations.

Luck and effort often win the greatest battles. It’s all about the T-cells now.

In 2020 scientists found that in some people, pre-existing T cell memory, even against those other coronaviruses could reduce the severity of illness. What we are seeing with Omnicron may be a similar phenomenon: People who were vaccinated or who had the disease seem to often have cold-like symptoms while those without any T cell memory may suffer the ultimate consequences.

Adding to our luck, which we desperately need, is the appearance of a highly infectious COVID variant that may have borrowed some of its genetic sequence from a common-cold COVID and become also less virulent. Getting a booster likely helps bring back enough neutralizing antibodies for a short while to even improve immunity but ultimately, unless we develop a markedly improved vaccine the end of this pandemic may be a lot of random luck.

For now, to improve your chances of getting a mild infection, vaccination is the best answer.

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