Drug molecule brings cure for the common cold closer

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We often talk about the common cold like it's one illness caused by one germ, but in reality, a cold can be triggered by nearly 200 different viruses.

It is both the world's most widespread infectious disease and one of the most elusive.

However a new molecule, developed by researchers at Imperial College London, targets N-myristoyltransferase (NMT), a protein in human cells.

All strains of cold virus need this human protein to make new copies of themselves.

According to MedlinePlus, a fever of 100°F or higher, cough, fatigue, a runny nose, and a sore throat are symptoms that you already have the virus.

Additionally, the molecule also works against viruses related to the cold virus, such as polio and foot-and-mouth disease. Without the protein shield, the virus's genetic heart of RNA is exposed and vulnerable - and the virus can not replicate.

Still, this is exciting research that could lead to a fast antiviral treatment that stops the common cold in its tracks, regardless of the strain.

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Also, earlier drugs created to block NMT were too toxic to be of benefit. This means it is very hard to pin down a drug that works against the virus.

Users would have to take the drug early on in a cold infection, and the researchers are working on a version which could be inhaled.

Early lab-based tests with human cells have shown the molecule's ability to completely block multiple strains of cold virus, and the team hope to move to animal and then human trials.

But the new approach could be more successful because it does not target the virus directly. However, further studies are needed to ensure that the drug is not toxic in the body.

Dr Peter Barlow, of the British Society for Immunology, said: "While this study was conducted entirely in vitro, ie: using cells to model rhinovirus (cold) infection in the laboratory, it shows great promise in terms of eventually developing a drug treatment to combat the effects in patients". The results of initial tests are published today in the journal Nature Chemistry.

Though other drugs that target human cells in this way have been trialed before, IMP-1088 is "more than 100 times more potent" than its predecessors.

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