One of the most common classes, however, is rhinoviruses.
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. Without the protein shield, the virus's genetic heart of RNA is exposed and vulnerable - and the virus can not replicate. The new molecule, codenamed IMP-1088, targets a mechanism that all strains of the cold virus use, however, raising the possibility of a universally effective treatment. The early tests also suggest that the drug causes no harm to host cells. A newly tested molecule appears to offer real hope.
The team believes if this treatment if found to work, it could be especially helpful to people with health conditions like asthma.
"A drug like this could be extremely beneficial if given early in infection, and we are working on making a version that could be inhaled, so that it gets to the lungs quickly", says lead researchers on the project, Ed Tate.
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The trials found it also succeeded in killing multiple strains, including viruses related to polio and foot and mouth disease.
The problem with the common cold virus is that there are hundreds of different strains which are constantly evolving so even if the body develops immunity to one strain, there are hundreds more out there ready to attack. The viruses are also known to evolve incredibly fast, adding another layer of difficulty in developing effective treatments. If successful, a new drug could be available within seven years. Instead it suppresses a human enzyme that the virus relies on to construct its capsid shell.
In the lab, it worked within minutes of being applied to human lung cells, targeting a human protein called NMT, Nature Chemistry journal reports.
"The way the drug works means that we would need to be sure it was being used against the cold virus, and not similar conditions with different causes, to minimize the chance of toxic side effects", he says.