The cold - could it become less common?

The cold - could it become less common?

The cure for the common cold has been niggling scientists like a tickly throat for decades, but after many long winters searching for a viable treatment, a team of UK-based researchers might have finally made a massive breakthrough.

The compound, IMP-1088, targets N-myristoyltransferase (NMT), a protein in human cells which cold viruses use to construct a protein "shell", which protects the virus genome.

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.

The drug, designed by Imperial College London, blocks a protein in human body cells which the cold virus hijacks to replicate itself. The molecule could also work against the poliovirus and the virus that causes foot and mouth disease. When a person catches a cold, the virus is dependent on the protein as it operates by "hijacking" NMT and making copies of itself.

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

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

Users would have to take the drug early on in a cold infection, and the researchers are working on a version which could be inhaled. On top of that, the viruses evolve rapidly, meaning they can quickly gain resistance to drugs. The researchers showed that the new molecule completely blocked several strains of the virus without affecting human cells.

While IMP-1088 did not cause any harm to human cells in the laboratory, the researchers cautioned trials and further research were required to test its safety. Ed Tate, of Imperial College London in the United Kingdom.

The research showed that this molecule is over 100 times more potent than previous molecules targeting the protein in humans. They found two likely molecules and discovered that they were most effective when they were combined.

"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", said Tate.

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