How childhood infections can provide protection against future pandemics

A child’s first influenza infection shapes their immunity to future airborne flu viruses — including emerging pandemic strains. But not all flu strains spur the same initial immune defense, according to new findings published today by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine virologists in the journal PLOS Pathogens. “These results are relevant right now to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said senior author Seema Lakdawala, Ph.D., assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Pitt. “They may explain age-based distributions of SARS-CoV-2 disease severity and susceptibility. “Having flu once does not make you immune to all future influenza viruses,” she said. “Nor does having had the original SARS virus in 2003 or any of the ‘common cold’ coronaviruses in circulation necessarily mean you can’t get infected with SARS-CoV-2. But your susceptibility to infection might be different than someone who has never encountered a coronavirus.”