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Study Says Cold and Flu Won’t Occur Simultaneously


Keith Wilkinson

CNN While having a cold and flu is perhaps one of the worst things to have during the holiday seasons when family and friends are ever-present, but here’s a bit of comforting news you can take to bed with you: You won’t suffer from a cold and the flu simultaneously.

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That’s the conclusion of a new study that analyzed viral test results of more than 44,000 patients in Glasgow, Scotland, between 2005 and 2013. The study was published Monday in the journal for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and its conclusions were clear.

“It was clear that the flu and rhinovirus — which causes the common cold — interact in a negative way,” said study author Dr. Pablo Murcia of the University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research. “When there is a lot of flu in the population, there is little rhinovirus and vice versa.”

The findings might explain why colds and flu tend to have different seasonal peaks, which are repeated statistically each year, said lead author Sema Nickbakhsh, a postdoctoral research associate at Glasgow University’s Centre for Virus Research.

“The cold virus declines at the time that flu peaks each winter, and that happens every single year,” Nickbakhshs said, adding that cold viruses tend to peak in the spring and autumn when flu declines.

Each person in the study was tested for 11 different cold and flu viruses, thus allowing researchers to show the association occurred on both an individual “host” level and the broader population level as well.

Albany herald Viruses are parasites that must infect an individual’s cells in order to replicate and be maintained in the environment. Some affect a broad number of cells within humans (and animals), and some have predilections for certain parts of the body.

Therefore, it would be possible to have simultaneous viral infections, Schaffner said, but only one virus takes hold to the extent that it triggers our immune system’s killer instinct.

“There are times when one viral infection may be so apparent, shall we say, that it actually acts as a barrier to your getting a second,” Schaffner said. “We’re just beginning to find out whether this is virus-specific or whether it has more to do with the intensity of the infection.”

Interestingly, a person can become a carrier for a virus without being sick themselves, he explained, which can lead to some disturbing, but common, scenarios.

Newsstandhub “They might have the same seasonal preferences or climate and temperature conditions that they favor,” Nickbakhsh said. “Or it might be that the two don’t occur together because if you’re sick and at home or you’re in a hospital, then you’re not going to be exposed to other viruses.”

Cooperative relationships have long been known to exist between viruses and bacteria; Flu enhances a person’s susceptibility to pneumococcal bacteria, for example.

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“So, it is well known in the respiratory system that cooperative relationships can occur among pathogens,” Nickbakhsh said. “We don’t know among the viruses what the reason is for it at this stage, which means a lot more research needs to happen.”

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