Why curing the common cold is so difficult

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The hunt for a cure for the common cold began in the 1950s, shortly after scientists discovered the primary group of pathogens—known as rhinoviruses—behind the sniffles. Together it accounts for up to 75 percent of colds in adults. But scientists quickly ran into an issue that still stymies researchers today, says [immunologist] Peter Barlow.

There’s at least 160 different strains, or serotypes, of rhinovirus, Barlow says. That means cracking the cold isn’t so much looking for one solution to one problem as it is trying to design a master key to open hundreds of different locks at once.


One way, which a group at Imperial College London is currently investigating, is to discover some part of the viral structure that’s shared between all 160 serotypes. If they can successfully target an immune response against that common structure, then they could design a single vaccine that would offer protection against every strain of rhinovirus.

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The common cold might be a nuisance that causes most people to lay up for a few days, but it can seriously exacerbate chronic respiratory conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or cystic fibrosis. “If someone is in the hospital already and has an exacerbation of an existing disease [from rhinovirus], the medication can be delivered quickly,” he notes. In this case, such a cure could save lives.

Read full, original post: Why Haven’t We Cured the Common Cold Yet?

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