Molecule Prevents Common Cold Virus from Hijacking Human Cells

Common cold cure on horizon after new drug successfully kills multiple strains of the virus

Common cold cure on horizon after new drug successfully kills multiple strains of the virus

The common cold is caused by viruses with hundreds of variants, and these overwhelming numbers can hinder efforts to immunize or vaccinate ourselves against them. It targets a protein in human cells, known as N-myristoyltransferase (NMT), that viruses steal from human cells to create their protective capsid by preventing any fatty-acid attachment.

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.

Any virus needs this same human protein to make new copies of itself and, as this new molecule can target NMT, it can work against the common cold. The researchers believe that it could work against other related viruses, including those responsible for polio and foot-and-mouth disease.

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Lead researcher Professor Ed Tate, from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial, said: "The common cold is an inconvenience for most of us, but can cause serious complications in people with conditions like asthma and COPD". If successful the cold cure could be available within five years. In this study, the researchers found no side effect to human cells.

It's early days for the research, so far only tested out in a petri-dish, but the scientists on the project are hoping to swiftly move to animal and then human trials.

"While this study was conducted entirely in vitro, i.e using cells to model rhinovirus infection in the laboratory, it shows great promise in terms of eventually developing a drug treatment to combat the effects of this virus in patients". But what if there were one way to block the ability of all cold viruses from replicating-thereby fending off the sneezing, sore throat and general misery that they cause? The scientists found they were able to block replication of several strains of the virus without human cells being affected.

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By targeting the human protein and not the virus itself, the molecule makes the emergence of resistant viruses highly unlikely.

The molecule was initially discovered when searching for a way to take on malaria parasites.

A 1913 poster about the common cold.

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