08 Jan The role of natural Immunity in keeping us well
It is very welcome that recent studies now emphasize the role of natural immunity in keeping us well during the pandemic. It is clearer that the natural immunity of former COVID sufferers is stronger and more comprehensive against COVID than the vaccines. And this includes the Delta variant.
Natural immunity also seems to be longer lasting than the vaccine.
As an example, there has been a recent large Israeli study published in Science Magazine. This shows that natural immune protection developed from SARS-CoV-2 infection offers a strong shield against the Delta variant.
What is more the protection is stronger than two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The newly released data show that when people have had a SARS-CoV-2 infection they are:
1. Much less likely than vaccinated people (who have never been infected) to get the Delta variant.
2. Much less likely to develop symptoms from it.
3. Much less likely to become hospitalized with serious COVID-19.
Natural immunity from COVID is 13 times more effective than the vaccine
The new analysis relies on the database of Maccabi Healthcare Services, which enrolls about 2.5 million Israelis. So that is a great representative sample of the population.
The study found that never-infected people who were vaccinated were six to thirteen times more likely to get infected than unvaccinated people who were previously infected with the coronavirus. One analysis compared more than 32,000 people in the health system. Here the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 was twenty-seven times higher among the vaccinated. Similarly the risk of hospitalization was eight times higher. You can read all about it on the following link: https://bit.ly/3EF3mzK.
This improved natural protection arises from something called cross-reactive immunity.
How Cross-Reactive Immunity works
What is cross-reactive immunity? Well, to help explain this term let’s look at an example. And an excellent instance of cross-reactive immunity at work is the once lethal 1918 Spanish Flu.
Believe it or not, the Spanish Flu virus is still here today. But it has by now mutated to an extent that it has become just one of the two hundred or so viruses floating around our personal cco-spheres. These are the sort of common viruses that give us our colds and flues every autumn and winter.
What has happened is that subsequent variants of the 1918 flu evolved to be less deadly. Now I am not advocating getting the flu, it is never much fun and get be serious too. But for most of us, most of the time we all survive it quite readily. That is apart from that small percentage of the population that have a weak, or in some way compromised immune system. Every year in the UK, tens of thousands of old and sick people die of the flu. And this is all because their immune system has reached such a low ebb as to be unable to fight off the virus.
Natural immunity works a bit like our computer security updates
Otherwise, what is happening to the rest of us is that on an ongoing basis we expose ourselves to the latest strains of cold or flu. And each fresh exposure helps to boost our immune system. In a way, each exposure acts a bit like the antivirus security update that Microsoft sends you regularly on your computer. Each new update helps prepare you for the next variant of the virus.
OK, so you might never be 100% immune. Nevertheless as your immunity from a particular strain, wanes and the viruses mutate, you get updates to your system. And these updates ensure you will always have a substantial amount of protection. Thankfully, the protection is robust enough to keep you out of harm’s way. This protection is what we mean by cross-reactive immunity. By the way, this concept is decades old established science. Furthermore, it was uncontested until the current pandemic. Now the pharmaceutical companies realize they can make money out of a sort of artificial immunity subscription service. So suddenly natural immunity becomes rubbished as non-science.
COVID is a cousin of the viruses we have already met
In reality with COVID, we are not exposing ourselves to a new virus. Instead we are exposing ourselves to a cousin or variant of ones we have already met and processed. What were originally dangerous viruses morph to become precious allies protecting us from future dangers. But this is only so long as we benefit from frequent re-exposure, before our immunity fades altogether.
In this sense, cross-reactive immunity is the evolutionary strategy that every healthy human possesses. And it is this strategy that protects us from the latest variants.
As we update our immune system, so we experience the ‘asymptomatic’ infection. This asymptomatic infection is what we hear so much about with the PCR testing. Interestingly, without this new mass testing regime, we would probably be entirely oblivious to the pandemic. In reality therefore, there is no need to worry unduly about the new variants arriving. Quite simply, they are doing so all the time. And furthermore, naturally speaking, as they mutate, they typically become less and less harmful to us. In this respect the latest ‘Omicron’ strain falls nicely into this pattern. Far from being a source of extreme danger, Omicron was nature’s Christmas gift to us.
The evidence to back this assertion up is that, if we had not had this vital cross-reactive immunity, then there really would have been a calamity. Without it, the COVID-19 pandemic would have seen a re-run of the deadly 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. But the fact is that the vast majority of us had already constructed powerful resistance to COVID. This resistance is due to our prior exposure to other coronaviruses yielding partial cross-reactive immunity.
A classic laboratory example from an ocean voyage
If you remember, at the start of the pandemic there was an outbreak of COVID on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Inadvertently, this gave researchers a perfect window to observe clearly the role of natural immunity in keeping us well during the pandemic.
As a result of this unique opportunity, even in February 2020, we knew that the pandemic was mild. Mercifully, we were not staring in the face of an apocalyptic 1918 Spanish flu. The researchers could see that COVID-19 was in effect just another coronavirus strain that was a close cousin of other coronaviruses. Thus, conveniently most of us already carried some level of cross-reactive immunity. You can read an account of this on the link here. https://bit.ly/3FF1PLh
In the liner’s isolated system, the virus was able to roam free onboard the ship, yet even so and with no treatments available, the average mortality stayed between 0.25% and 0.65%. That by the way is no worse than a bad flu season. In the event only 26% of the passengers tested positive, despite being cooped up together. And 48% of these infected people showed no symptoms. This by the way, is despite the high average age of the passengers. It was obvious to the researchers that we were not confronting a truly novel virus. Instead what they saw was an already high degree of cross-reactive immunity in society.
Previous SARS sufferers were found to have high immunity
Similarly, by October 2020 other researchers had been studying the impact of the serious SARS virus of 2003. They learned that many people infected by SARS had also developed a degree of cross-reactive immunity. In essence therefore, COVID was never a mortal threat to the most of us with healthy immune systems.
As usual, the threat lay with those whose immune systems were compromised by frailty, old-age and severe pre-existing conditions. You can read the research here: https://bit.ly/3JqKesN. “Is Cross-Reactive Immunity Triggering COVID-19 Immunopathogenesis?”
The role of natural immunity in keeping us well during the pandemic.
For everyone else with a strong immune system and cross-reactive immunity, we should focus on maintaining our own resistance with appropriate nutrition and natural lifestyles. We may well get infected, but if we take the necessary precautions then we should avoid symptomatic infection.
By precautions, I mean simple, routine measures that are part of our folklore. But even so, they are entirely valid. Measures such as experiencing adequate daily sun light, regular exercise and getting sufficient sleep are all potent in keeping the bugs at bay (Apparently losing as little as one hour’s sleep temporarily reduces the effectiveness of your immune system by as much as 40%). But if you suspect you are going down with a chill, then the common sense advice about keeping warm and having hot fluids and resting is still very relevant. Also taking in enough vitamin C and D and Zinc. And we should not overlook the value of sharing laughter and physical interactions such as hugs and handshakes. All of these activities help to boost our natural immunity.
I repeat, these fundamentals to a healthy lifestyle do not prevent infection, but they will reduce your risk of a seriously negative outcome. In essence, they underpin the role of natural immunity in keeping us well during the pandemic.
The government response works against natural immunity
On the other hand, so much of the Government COVID response is actively harmful to cross-reactive immunity.
Lock downs, isolation, mandatory mask wearing, silly elbow touching, and all the rest, disrupts our normal and healthy social interaction. (We should mention in this context how the stress engendered by economic instability, fear mongering and loneliness also suppresses the immune system.) The net result is that these measures directly inhibit the training that our immune system needs to overcome repeated exposure to other respiratory viruses. Not really what we want at all.
We must remember that COVID is not the only risk. Although not talked about much at the moment, there are 200 or so other viruses out there floating about. All eager to feast off any compromised immune system that has simply got out of practice in handling new variants. So keep your antivirus security update going.
Previous governments knew better
And a last word on the subject from none other than Sir Winston Churchill. In this passage we find him reminiscing about his experiences as Prime Minister during the 1940 Blitz in World War Two. From this extract he seems to understand the the role of natural immunity in keeping us well. He also seems to have grasped the concept of cross-reactive immunity, even if he did not know the name for it.
“… I feared that the long nights for millions in the crowded street shelters … would produce epidemics of influenza, diphtheria, the common cold, and what not. But it appeared that Nature had already provided against this danger.
Man is a gregarious animal, and apparently the mischievous microbes he exhales fight and neutralize each other. They go out an devour each other, and Man walks off unharmed. If this is not scientifically correct, it ought to be. The fact remains that during this rough winter the health of the Londoners was actually above the average.” Winston Churchill – Their Finest Hour.
This extract on “The role of natural immunity in keeping us well during the pandemic is from ‘COVID Whoppers – The sixteen ways the government narrative obscures the truth about the COVID-19 pandemic.‘ You can read the whole article here: https://bit.ly/3pSJAwv
Jeremy Old is an independent management psychologist, business consultant and psychotherapist. He is also author of ‘Reinventing management thinking – Using science to liberate the human spirit’ and ‘The Super Radiance effect’ http://amzn.to/2bVAlDr. Apart from 1-2-1 psychotherapy, Jeremy has published an on-line video training course on ‘Become a Mental Health First Aider’