If you’re lucky, you can manage to avoid the common cold entirely. If not, you’ll probably only have to deal with the sniffles and a fever for a few days. For some with conditions such as asthma or other respiratory diseases, the common cold can be far more dangerous. A cure for the common cold has been little more than a pipe dream, though scientists have taken the first tiny steps into a world where the common cold can be stopped.
The key to the discovery is in tweaking enzymes in our body rather than trying to adapt to the cold virus itself. Part of the reason why it’s been so difficult to treat is because it is good at mutating itself, making a single vaccine nearly worthless. Scientists looked at molecules that interact with an enzyme that attaches fatty acid molecules onto proteins. These bits on their own didn’t do much to inhibit the cold from spreading, but after they are chemically stitched together they become far more effective, preventing the virus from creating the protein coat that surrounds the genetic bits of the virus.
The team say the molecule appears to completely prevent the virus from replicating, whether it is added one hour before, one hour after or at the same time as the cells are infected, and that it remains effective up to three hours after infection. The approach was also found to prevent the replication of other viruses in the same family as rhinovirus – including polio and foot-and-mouth disease.
That sounds pretty promising, but don’t get too excited quite yet. Most don’t realize they’ve been infected for at least a day or two after they’ve been exposed, so researchers will at the very least need to figure out how to extend the potency of their concoction. Another hurdle is that the research is currently being conducted in a Petri dish full of human cells. There are quite a few more steps between where they’re at and even animal trials let alone human trials. It is, however, a start, which is promising.