Researchers Take Baby Step Towards Cure for the Common Cold

By Eliza Strickland | February 13, 2009 3:32 pm

sneeze.jpgA cure for the common cold may eventually be within reach, now that scientists have sequenced the genetic code of 99 strains of the common cold virus.

The research team, whose findings are published in Science, found that the strains are organized in about 15 family groups, each with its own ancestral path, which may explain why no one anti-viral drug works against all of them [Medical News Today]. By mapping a family tree of the common cold virus, or human rhinovirus, the researchers say they can identify the similarities and differences among all the strains. That family tree shows that some regions of the rhinovirus genome are changing all the time but that others never change. The … unchanging regions … are therefore ideal targets for drugs because, in principle, any of the 99 strains would succumb to the same drug [The New York Times].

The study also found something not thought possible in that type of virus: they recombine to form new strains…. which may account for the speed with which new strains emerge within one season [Medical News Today].

The discovery could potentially lead to a cure for the common cold, although there is less hope for a vaccine because of the variations between the 15 groups. People at high risk from rhinoviruses, including children, elderly people, and anyone with asthma or a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, would benefit the most from any advances in treatment.

Skeptics abound, however, as to whether drug companies will act on the discovery and begin development of a new drug, in part because of uncertainty about whether people would pay for drugs to treat such a minor illness. The industry has also learned in recent years that turning a genetic discovery into a marketable drug is far harder than once thought [The New York Times]. And, as Dr. Ann Palmenberg, a cold virologist said, “There’s not going to be a vaccine for the common cold,” given that vaccines do not protect the linings of the nose where the virus attacks [The New York Times].

Related Content:
DISCOVER: The Cold Warriors tells the tale of the fight against the rhinovirus
DISCOVER: 10 Ways Genetically Engineered Microbes Could Help Humanity

Image: Flickr / Mussels

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • John Harris

    Sorry to burst the hype bubble but a cure for the common cold is already in clinical trials, and from the same people that did the research that produced Relenza and was “borrowed” to develop Tamiflu.

    ” Rhinoviruses access nasal cells by attaching to a receptor on the cell surface. Canyon-like clefts on the surface of the virus attach to the receptor and allow the virus to infect the cell. Biota is developing antiviral compounds which are designed to bind to these evolutionarily conserved clefts of HRV’s capsid shell and interfere with virus attachment to the targeted cell’s receptor.”

    Biota completed Phase I (single & multi-dose) clinical trial of its HRV drug, BTA798 in 2007 and is currenty conducting Phase IIa trials.

  • Bruce Voigt

    A little fun…..!

    HEAD LINE NEWS:

    JANUARY

    Medical Science, in cooperation with the National Cancer Foundation, is proud to announce a discovery – a cure for the common cold! – SPUDKATCHU a derivative of the common potato. Government officials have approved the food company’s applications to add SPUDKATCHU to the world’s food supply.

    JUNE

    The intellect of SPUDKATCHU are taking their bows from the grateful public. Sniffles, coughing, sneezing, phlegm, are all things of the past.

    JULY

    A mad scientist, Bruce Voigt, announces that sniffles, coughing, sneezing and phlegm, is not the common cold but is the body’s response to the common cold germ!

    SEPTEMBER

    As of date the pandemic NOKATCHO has taken over ten million lives with no let up. Medical Science and the National Cancer Foundation are pleased to announce a probable cure for this mysterious disease within ten years. A survivor, Joe Sixpack, says, “If I could only throw up or fart, I know I would feel much better.”

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