Monday, September 14, 2020

Wearing a mask could protect you from COVID-19 in more ways than you think

Some researchers think masks could expose wearers to just enough of the virus that it helps trigger immunity.

A new paper, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, puts forth the idea that universal masking may do more than reduce the transmission rate of SARS-CoV-2. It may, the authors propose, also result in greater immunity and fewer severe cases of the disease. Pexels

By Kat Eschner
Popular Science

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is entirely new to infectious disease researchers and other public health scientists. To combat it, scientists have sifted through centuries of literature about how the world coped with past pandemics. A new opinion paper assesses one way in which we might be able to learn from our encounters with smallpox.

The paper, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, puts forth the idea that universal masking may do more than reduce the transmission rate of SARS-CoV-2. It may, the authors propose, also result in greater immunity and fewer severe cases of the disease.

Specifically, the commentary discusses the theory of variolation, an pre-vaccine form of inoculation that uses a dilute form of the smallpox virus to give people a mild infection that would lead to lifelong immunity to the virus. The idea is that a small enough dose of the virus will prevent the person from getting severely ill but will be enough that their immune system’s develop antibodies for future protection.  Read more >>