GLASGOW, Scotland - People who have the flu are less likely to get the common cold and vice versa, according to a new study done by the University of Glasgow.
The research, which was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that if a person was infected with either virus then their chances for catching the other virus were low.
Researchers said that the common cold - often caused by a rhinovirus - spikes at different times of the year than the flu and decided to see what caused that phenomenon.
“The new study… is the first study with enough samples to provide strong evidence for this interaction at both population and individual level,” according to the authors of the study.
Scientists from the Medical Research Council University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research looked over more than 44,000 samples of acute respiratory illness in more than 36,000 patients. Those samples were tested for 11 different types of respiratory viruses from 2005 until 2013.
Researchers found that 35 percent tested positive for a virus, and of those people, 8 percent were infected with more than one type.
The data also showed that patients with influenza A were about 70 percent less likely to also have a rhinovirus than patients infected with other viruses.
“In the same way as lions and spotted hyenas compete for food resources in the Masai Mara, we believe respiratory viruses may be competing for resources in the respiratory tract,” said Dr. Sema Nickbakhsh, with the MRC-University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research.
Authors of the study also believe that viruses can affect one another’s spread at a population level. One of the ways they can do that is that if a person has the flu or a cold, they’re more likely to stay home and not catch the other virus.
“A key thing to note with this research is that we’re looking at average risks over a large number of patients who have sought healthcare – that’s not to say that occasionally unlucky individuals can’t be infected with influenza and a cold virus at the same time,” Nickbakhsh said.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.