Instead of attacking the virus, researchers at Imperial College London designed a drug that blocks a protein in the body's cells that cold viruses usually commandeer to self-replicate and spread. The results of initial tests are published today in the journal Nature Chemistry. Viruses "hijack" NMT from human cells to construct the protein "shell", or capsid, which protects the virus genome.
Could we be one step closer to a cure for the common cold?
The drug is also hypothetically effective in dealing with polio and foot and mouth disease, which have similar viruses to the common cold.
The molecule targets a human protein and not the virus itself, making emergence of resistant viruses highly unlikely.
"The common cold is an inconvenience for most of us, but can cause serious complications in people with conditions like asthma and COPD", said lead researcher Ed Tate, a professor of chemistry at Imperial College, in the statement. Scientists hope the new molecule, code-named IMP-1088, can be administered simply using an inhaler.
It's a family of viruses that evolve so quickly no one can ever be fully immune to the cold, and developing a vaccine that can tackle all of the variations of the virus is impossible.
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The Imperial College London researchers were working on making a form of the drug that could be inhaled, to reduce the chance of side effects. Further studies are needed to make sure it is not toxic in the body though.
Previous attempts to create drugs that target human cells rather than the virus have proven to be failures, while also showing themselves to be toxic.
Roberto Solari, visiting Fellow at the National Heart & Lung Institute, says he's reasonably optimistic. Finding two specific compounds, the team produced a novel molecule called IMP-1088, which specifically inhibits NMT.
The molecule was initially discovered when searching for a way to take on malaria parasites. They found two compounds that seemed to work well together, so they combined them to make IMP-1088.
Laboratory tests showed how an experimental drug stopped the rhinovirus - the predominant cause of the common cold - hijacking a human protein to build the protective shell, or "capsid".