Why some people are more likely to have a cold

Why some people are more likely to have a cold

Runny nose, sneezing, throat scratching: the classic cold has probably caught everyone once before. Responsible for this annoying suffering can be a variety of viruses – especially representatives of the so-called rhinoviruses. If the pathogens infect our airways, they sometimes cause unpleasant and in extreme cases even severe symptoms of disease. In many cases, our immune system will kill the pathogens before we notice anything about the infection.

But why do the cold viruses regularly bring people out of action, while others almost never get sick? Scientists led by Valia Mihaylova of Yale University, New Haven, have now studied how such different disease histories can be explained.

Attack on the airways

For their research, they examined epithelial cells from the nasal cavity and the lungs of healthy people. These cells form the first line of defense of the body against potentially dangerous invaders in the air. How do they react when they come into contact with rhinoviruses? It revealed that although both cell types were exposed to identical conditions in the experiment, they did not exhibit the same behavior.

For example, the researchers observed a much stronger antiviral response in the cells of the nose – this is also where the pathogens typically begin their airway conquest. However, further studies have shown that nasal and lung cells apparently set different priorities for a rhinovirus infection. Although the antiviral response in the nose had increased, the cells in the lungs could effectively prevent oxidative stress. This type of cell stress can be caused by viruses, but also by cigarette smoke or pollen.

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