Last year, a group of European scientists announced they had found a way to decode encrypted signals in the genome of human Parechovirus, which is part of the family of viruses that cause the common cold.
An experimental drug used in laboratory tests stopped rhinovirus using a human protein to build its protective shell, or capsid, exposing its genetic heart and preventing it from replicating.
Caused by a family of viruses with hundreds of variants, it is almost impossible to treat, as no single vaccination exists against it, meaning people resort to treating the symptoms rather than the virus itself.
That viral variation is in fact is a big part of the reason why scientists have never succeeded in developing a single vaccine for the common cold - but a new approach led by researchers from Imperial College London could lay the foundations for a medication that actually treats the sickness, not just its symptoms. Additionally, the molecule also works against viruses related to the cold virus, such as polio and foot and mouth disease viruses.
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)".
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Instead of going after these many and varied viruses - most of which are species of rhinovirus, of which there are some 160 recognised types - the new compound the team discovered, codenamed IMP-1088, focusses instead on something the viruses need: your cells.
Dr Peter Barlow of the British Society for Immunology said Imperial College's cold cure research showed great promise. Most current cold treatments do no more than alleviate symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, and fever. The researchers showed that the new molecule completely blocked several strains of the virus without affecting human cells.
By targeting the human protein and not the virus itself, the molecule makes the emergence of resistant viruses highly unlikely.
Previous efforts to create drugs that target human cells rather than infections have failed thanks to "toxic side effects". In Vitro experiments have also found no sign of toxic effect on the treated cells.