Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
Medicine | By Douglas Stevenson

Cure for the common cold? Incredible molecule shows real promise

Cure for the common cold? Incredible molecule shows real promise

The common cold is caused by a family of viruses with hundreds of variants, making it almost impossible to become immune to or vaccinate against all of them.

It is both the world's most widespread infectious disease and one of the most elusive.

But researchers at Imperial College London have focused on a protein inside human cells called N-myristoyltransferase (NMT).

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. Most current cold treatments do no more than alleviate symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, and fever. The researchers believe that it could work against other related viruses, including those responsible for polio and foot-and-mouth disease.

The viruses can not become resistant to the molecule because it targets the human protein and not the virus.

Researchers are now working on a drug that can be inhaled for people who have just started getting the sniffles.

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. Colds are most often caused by a rhinoviruses - a large family of viruses with hundreds of variants. This new drug, however, did not damage cultured human cells. The viruses also evolve quickly to become resistant to anti-viral drugs. Instead it suppresses a human enzyme that the virus relies on to construct its capsid shell. In vitro testing using human cells found the new molecule completely blocked the replication of several cold virus strains. However, further studies are needed to ensure that the drug is not toxic in the body.

Independent expert Dr Peter Barlow, Associate Professor in Immunology & Infection at Edinburgh Napier University, said the research "shows great promise". This is mainly because there are around 160 different types of this virus, so creating a vaccine that is effective against all these types is extremely challenging.

It took mere minutes for IMP-1088 to take effect on human lung cells in a laboratory trial.

The results of the first tests were published today in the journal Nature Chemistry.

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