SCIENTISTS have identified a biological marker that predicts susceptibility to catching a cold.
They say the marker in the immune system, which emerges at about the age of 22, predicts the body’s ability to fight off the common cold.
The study led by psychology professor Sheldon Cohen, of Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, found that the length of telomeres – protective cap-like protein complexes at the ends of chromosomes – predicts resistance to upper respiratory infections.
Telomere length is a biomarker of ageing: telomeres shorten as people get older. As a cell’s telomeres shorten, it loses its ability to function normally.
Prof Cohen and his team measured the telomere length of white blood cells from 152 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 55. They were then exposed to a rhinovirus, which causes a common cold.
The results showed that the participants with shorter telomeres were more likely to become infected by the cold virus. Beginning at about age 22, telomere length started to predict whether individuals would develop an infection.