In the next decade, University of Utah researchers believe it’s possible severe COVID-19 cases could disappear.

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – University of Utah researchers believe COVID-19 is here to stay. But new research shows that as time goes on, and immunity increases, the virus’s impact on people may decrease.

Within the next 10 years, Utah researchers believe COVID-19 could be no more than a common cold.

“We can hope for sniffles and a cough, right? So that’s just another seasonal coronavirus, which are distinguishable from all other colds. Or it could be flu-like. It really knocks you flat on your back, but hopefully doesn’t kill you,” said Dr. Fred Adler, a researcher involved with the project, and a mathematics and biological sciences professor.

The U’s research projects suggest changes in COVID-19 could be driven by the transformation of people’s immune systems, rather than changes by the virus.

“The immune system is an amazing beast at sort of not only dealing with a novelty, but it’s even better at dealing with things it’s seen before,” Adler said.

Using mathematical models, Adler said their findings suggest as more adults become partially immune – whether through infection or vaccination – severe infections could disappear, leaving only mild COVID-19 cases to exist.

“The hope is – though it’s certainly just speculation – that the second time, the response will be faster and more appropriate,” he said.

As time goes on and the virus’ impact decreases, Adler said children would be the only ones to become exposed for the first time – and from what research shows – they’re prone to less severe illness.

“We’ve spent our whole lives getting colds since we were little babies. So, you know, we’ve built up this lifetime of experience,” he said. “The hope is, with this too, kids get exposed, either from the disease or get vaccinated when they’re young, then this experience will have built up.”

Adler remains optimistic about the future. His models predict over the years, severe COVID-19 cases will decline.

Adler and his team will continue their research. In the next year or two, Adler believes more data will be available to better understand the long-term effects of the virus.