‘Immune debt’ and future pandemics

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‘Immune debt’ and future pandemics. Scientists and doctors are debating whether mask-wearing and coronavirus prevention measures could affect pandemics in the future.

Scientists are talking about ‘immune debt’. The concept is a new one. The debate began after French paediatrician Robert Cohen wrote an opinion piece. He argued that the use of COVID prevention measures including masks, social distancing and handwashing increases the chance of future pandemics. The coronavirus prevention measures mean that people have a low bacterial exposure level. This could possibly affect their immune systems in the future.

“The lack of immune stimulation due to reduced circulation of microbial agents and reduced absorption of related vaccines induced an “immunity debt” that could have negative consequences when the pandemic is under control and non-pharmacological measures are eliminated.” Cohen commented.

José Gómez Rial is a paediatrician and immunologist at the Hospital Clínico de Santiago de Compostela. He commented on the fact that some families have suggested using masks every year in the winter for children. Some families have found wearing masks wonderful “because they don’t get sick” with the normal viruses that go around each year.

He said: “it is good for children to be confronted with pathogens.

“One of the reasons why covid-19 is mostly mild in children is because their immune system is used to dealing with new pathogens.

“If we now intervene with a mask every year at virus time, we may lose that effect in the future. Overprotecting children’s immune systems I think it can have consequences.”

During the pandemic higher numbers than normal of bronchitis have been seen. This is possibly due to ‘immune debt’ in children.


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Written by

Alex Glenn

Originally from the UK, Alex is based in Almeria and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]