Is cure for common cold in sight?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

LONDON - A cure for common cold seems to be in sight after scientists identified a vital mechanism that fights off viruses.

The breakthrough by scientists at a Medical Research Council lab at Cambridge University focuses on boosting the person’s natural defences against viruses.

Viruses need to infect cells, such as those in the nose, lungs and stomach, to live and breed, reports the Daily Mail.

It had been thought that antibodies tackled viruses by attacking them outside the cells and stopping them from getting inside, says the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But the latest work shows that the antibodies can also enter cells, making their way in at the same time as the virus. Once inside, the antibody triggers a chain of reactions which leads to a protein called TRIM21 ejecting the virus from the cell.

TRIM21 usually springs to life very quickly, before the virus has harmed the cell. The scientists have used the results to create drugs that raise levels of TRIM21.

In lab experiments, they stopped viruses similar to those behind the winter vomiting bug and many colds from causing infections. Leo James, the study’s lead author, said: “Doctors have plenty of antibiotics to fight bacterial infections but few anti-viral drugs.

“Although these are early days, and we don’t yet know whether all viruses are cleared by this mechanism, we are excited that our discoveries may open multiple avenues for developing new anti-viral drugs.”

While the research is at an early stage, the new anti-viral drugs could be tested on humans in just two to three years.

The common cold treatment may come as a powder that is sniffed, while the norovirus drug could be in pill form.

Viruses are mankind’s biggest killer, responsible for twice as many deaths each year as cancer, yet are among the hardest diseases to treat.

Filed under: Antibiotics, Cancer, Medicine, World

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