The common cold has been bedeviling H Sapiens ever since we climbed down from the trees 200,000 or so years ago. Now, however, a team of scientists believes that they’ve finally found a cure, Yahoo Lifestyle reports.
Jan Carette, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine, and his team believe that they’ve narrowed in on a way to stop the illness in its tracks. To understand what Dr. Carette’s team found and how it relates to curing the common cold, you first have to understand what causes the common cold and why it’s traditionally been so hard to stop.
Not One Virus
Disease such as AIDS, ebola, or influenza (the flu) are caused by a single virus or, in some cases, a small handful of closely-related viruses (or strains of the same virus). The common cold, on the other hand, is caused by any of at least 160 known viruses called “rhinoviruses.” Rhino is ancient Greek for “nose,” which is where the bug wreaks the most havoc.
That’s why it’s all but impossible to create a vaccine for them. When you get a flu vaccine, for example, you’re getting immunized against three or four strains of the influenza virus that the medical community thinks will be prominent in a given year. But with 160 or more rhinoviruses going around, it’s impossible to immunize against them all.
What’s more, they’re prone to mutation, which makes them drug-resistant.
Treating The Symptoms, Not The Disease
Meanwhile, when you’re down with a cold, the over-the-counter medicines you take aren’t doing anything at all to combat the virus that’s making you sick. Rather, they are only treating the symptoms of the illness. Swig a dose of Nyquil and you’ll still have a cold, you just won’t feel as bad (with any luck).
In fact, you may be making things worse. The runny nose, fever, chills, and other symptoms you feel are the result of your body trying valiantly to fight and kill the virus as well as prevent it from reproducing. By stifling your body’s natural defense mechanisms, you may make yourself feel better, but the cold virus inside you is still doing its thing, with less interruption.
Narrowing Down On A Protein
Dr. Carette and his team believe they’ve found a protein that helps the virus replicate. Disable the protein, and you’ve disabled the cold in its tracks. Using cultures from human lung cells, as well as in mice, researchers were able to completely stop the cold viruses from replicating in their trials.
Don’t Throw Out Your Over-The-Counter Drug Remedies Just Yet
Carette notes that his research is “only the beginning” and that more studies will need to be conducted before something even approaching a medicine that consumers can buy at Rite-Aid will be available. As noted in this Inquisitr report, the time between when the foundations of a new treatment are discovered in a lab and when there is medicine on the shelf could be years.
In the meantime, your best defense against the common cold is your best defense against almost all communicable diseases: wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes or nose with unwashed hands.