Cold and flu rarely strike at same time, study finds

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People may be less likely to get the flu if they already have a common cold, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 44,230 respiratory illness samples from 36,157 patients in Glasgow, Scotland, between 2005 and 2013. Researchers tested each patient for 11 different virus groups.

Thirty-five percent of samples tested positive for a virus, and 8 percent were infected with more than one type of virus at the same time. Researchers also discovered an inhibitory interaction between flu and rhinoviruses, which are responsible for the common cold, at both an individual and population level.

"When there is a lot of flu in the population, there is little rhinovirus, and vice versa," study author Dr. Pablo Murcia, a researcher at the University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, told CNN.

This trend may explain why cold and flu seasons peak at different times of the year on a cyclical basis. It also highlights the need for researchers to study viruses together like an ecosystem, rather than studying one at a time, Dr. Murcia said in a press release.

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