INNOVATION

The Common Cold Could Soon Become A Thing Of The Past

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03/08/2017 9:12 PM AEST | Updated 03/08/2017 9:12 PM AEST

The annual tradition of contracting seasonal sniffles and spending a week annoying all your colleagues with constant nose-blowing could be a thing of the past, as scientists get closer to beating it.

A team from Edinburgh Napier University has found a cure for the common cold, which although just an annoyance for most people, can be far more serious for people with asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

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The virus responsible for causing the majority of common colds is called the rhinovirus, and currently there is no cure or vaccine available to tackle this agent in humans. 

But this five-year-study has focused on the role of tiny ‘antimicrobial peptide’ molecules, which occur naturally in the immune systems of humans and animals, and increase in numbers when they detect a infection.

Researchers found that all of these antimicrobial peptides had the common property of being able to combat the rhinovirus, so could potentially be delivered in the form of drugs to bolster defences during the time of need.

Dr Peter Barlow, Professor of Immunology at Edinburgh Napier, said: “This is an exciting discovery and our next steps will be to modify the peptide to make it even better at killing this virus.”

The trials, conducted in sheep and pigs who have similar immune systems to humans, involved infecting lung cells with the rhinovirus and then observing if the synthesised peptides were able to defend against the cold-causing agent.

Earlier research had also underlined the potential for these some peptides to tackle the influenza A virus.

“This research is still in the early stages, but we will ultimately be looking to develop drug treatments that have the potential to cure the common cold, said Barlow.

According to government statistics, approximately 131 million working days are lost every year in the UK, with the most common reason given being minor illnesses such as coughs, colds, and flu.

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