Breakthrough in Common Cold Research

As we head into the last few months of the year, many of us will find us battling the sniffles, sore throats and headaches that characterise the common cold, but now, US researchers may have found a way to stop the common cold.

Most colds are caused by rhinoviruses – the most common viral infectious agent in humans. There are around 160 different types of rhinoviruses, each mutates so quickly and easily that they rapidly develop resistance to drugs and antibodies.

Though research is not yet ready for trials in people, using a ‘complete protection’ approach, scientists conducted experiments on mice and human lung cells. Instead of trying to attack the virus directly, essential in-cell proteins were targeted. Findings have led to the development of the idea of “host-directed therapy” – which would focus on making the human body inhospitable for the cold viruses.

In terms of a future cure, researchers hope to develop a drug which can temporarily suppress the protein affected by the virus, thus providing protection.

Virologist at the University of Nottingham, Prof Jonathan Ball, commented on the US study, saying that there was an is ‘increasing interest in developing treatments that target these host proteins, because it can potentially overcome virus mutation’. However, Ball also added that ‘viruses are very adaptable and it is conceivable that even a host-targeting treatment might not keep them at bay for long’.

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