Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
Medical | By Marta Holmes

Common cold could be cured in just five years, say scientists

Common cold could be cured in just five years, say scientists

Professor Ed Tate, who led the research, said: "The common cold is an inconvenience for most of us, but can cause serious complications in people with conditions like asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder)".

One of the most common classes, however, is rhinoviruses.

Instead of attacking the virus, researchers at Imperial College London designed a drug that blocks a protein in the body's cells that cold viruses usually commandeer to self-replicate and spread.

Early studies in the lab are promising but it still needs to be tested in animal and human studies before it could hit the market.

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The compound, IMP-1088, targets N-myristoyltransferase (NMT), a protein in human cells which cold viruses use to construct a protein "shell", which protects the virus genome.

Additionally, the molecule also works against viruses related to the cold virus, such as polio and foot-and-mouth disease.

"The drug inhibits a host protein so the virus can not evade its force by mutation and is unable to evolve resistance".

Still, this is exciting research that could lead to a fast antiviral treatment that stops the common cold in its tracks, regardless of the strain. It's a family of viruses that evolve so quickly no one can ever be fully immune to the cold, and developing a vaccine that can tackle all of the variations of the virus is impossible. This means it is very hard to pin down a drug that works against the virus.

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But the new approach could be more successful because it does not target the virus directly.

The molecule targets a human protein and not the virus itself, making emergence of resistant viruses highly unlikely.

Dr Peter Barlow, from Edinburgh Napier University and the British Society for Immunology, said: "There are now no drugs or vaccines for rhinovirus that have been licensed for use in humans". The development of new drug treatments for this virus is therefore urgently needed.

While IMP-1088 did not cause any harm to human cells in the laboratory, the researchers cautioned trials and further research were required to test its safety. They reported the discovery in the journal Nature Chemistry.

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