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The common cold cured?

Published on 03/08/17 at 09:59am
IMAGE: William Brawley

Researchers from Edinburgh Napier University have discovered a crucial step in bringing forward a cure for the common cold. The work of the scientists has discovered that antimicrobial peptides that exist in many different mammals could play a key role in fighting the infection.

The five-year study found that the peptides had properties that could make them an effective tool as a weapon against rhinovirus, the virus responsible for the common cold. This means that any drug that could artificially raise the levels of such peptides could offer the body a boost in its fight against the virus. The research looked into the possibility of using peptides from pigs and sheep to counter the virus.

The reason that the common cold is so common and, as yet, so difficult to treat is due to the number of viruses that cause the illness and how quickly they mutate. Rhinovirus is the most common cause, however, so beginning the fight with this virus may lead to further breakthroughs in the future.

Dr Peter Barlow, Associate Professor of Immunology & Infection at Edinburgh Napier, hailed the new research: “There is no cure and no vaccine so the development of effective therapies for human rhinovirus, the main causal agent of the common cold, and one of the most common causes of viral respiratory tract infections, is an urgent requirement. This study represents a major step towards finding a treatment.”

The study was funded by the Chief Scientist Office and the medical research charity Tenovus Scotland, with £200,000 in total going into the project.

Researchers were able to create peptides in the laboratory that successfully attack lung cells infected with human rhinovirus. The study is currently at an early stage but, should it continue to show promise, it could mean no more blocked noses and sore throats in the winter.

The work builds on previous research by Dr Barlow that saw him draw a connection between antimicrobial peptides and combatting the influenza A virus, commonly known as the flu.

Ben Hargreaves

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