Whenever someone gets the common cold, the available remedies will only treat the symptoms and not the virus itself. Recently, researchers have found a way to fight against the infection by testing a molecule in the lab.
The results of the first tests were published today in the journal Nature Chemistry. The lab tests on human cells showed that the molecule they used could effectively combat different strains of the virus. The team is now looking forward to starting animal and human trials.
Because the common cold is caused by many viruses that each has dozens of variants, it’s impossible to become immune to them or to get a vaccine against all the viruses. Even if we grow immune, viruses evolve fast and the get resistant to drugs.
This is why there is no drug to fight against the virus. All treatments against the cold are to treat the symptoms like a runny nose, fever or a sore throat.
Targeting Viruses Through Human Cells
But researchers at Imperial College London have focused on a protein inside human cells called N-myristoyltransferase (NMT). The virus takes over NMT and constructs a protein shell (capsid) to protect the virus genome. All types of the virus need NMP to make new copies of the virus. This molecule will also work against the viruses related to the common cold (polio, foot, and mouth disease viruses).
The viruses cannot become resistant to the molecule because it targets the human protein and not the virus.
Lead researcher Professor Ed Tate (Department of Chemistry at Imperial) explains how their tests will be useful in treating the colds:
“The common cold is an inconvenience for most of us but can cause serious complications in people with conditions like asthma and COPD. A drug like this could be extremely beneficial if given early in infection, and we are working on making a version that could be inhaled, so that it gets to the lungs quickly.”
Previous studies have focused on human cells and not directly targeting the virus. But some of the side effects were toxic. In this study, the researchers found no side effect to human cells. However, they will have to make sure that their molecule will not harm the body, said Professor Tate:
“The way the drug works means that we would need to be sure it was being used against the cold virus, and not similar conditions with different causes, to minimize the chance of toxic side effects.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.