Our immune systems have been provoked by the common cold for thousands of years, and the pharmaceutical industry has been no match. The diversity and resilience of the sickness makes it almost impossible to develop a single vaccination or cure. When one of the hundreds of kinds of viruses enters the bloodstream, there is no way to kill it or remove it until it has passed. However, recent studies have shown that scientists can break the resistant shell around the virus to help the immune system fight off the invader.
Since the years of ancient Egypt, there have been countless efforts and failures to find a cure. More recently in 1924, US President Calvin Coolidge was put in an airtight chlorine chamber and inhaled the strong, toxic gas for almost an hour on the advice of his physicians, The result was not as expected. In 1984, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison investigated one of the most common ways of catching a cold. They infected volunteers with a cold virus and instructed them to kiss healthy test subjects on the mouth for at least one minute. The result: just one confirmed infection. From outrageous trials to puzzling results, the cold virus has challenged scientists in every way.
Still to today, the options for treating the cold are limited to relieving symptoms. These treatments include cough medicine, menthol, nasal washing, and anti-inflammatories. Due to the large family of viruses that contribute to most cold cases, rhinoviruses, creating a vaccine is beyond reach. Even with major advancements in technology, the pharmaceutical industry does not have the resources to cover over one hundred kinds of viruses in this cluster.
Scientists have turned to other ways for prevention. Recently, researchers were looking for a compound to target a malaria parasite protein. They discovered 2 likely molecules in their work. With new technological advancements, they were able to combine the 2 molecules and tested the effectiveness within their parasite. The scientists found that the new compound blocks an enzyme found in human cells, called N-myristoyltransferase (NMT). NMT is used as a protective shell around viruses. For the cold, all rhinoviruses steal NMT and protect their genetic information, known as the capsid. The enzyme also allows the virus to replicate and spread. So, inhibiting NMT would destroy all cold viruses and allow the immune system to engage in their capsids.
Past studies have tested the effectiveness of drugs that target human cells. Among the trials, IMP-1088 is by far the most promising. First off, resistance would not be an issue because it targets human cells, which always accept signals from the enzyme. Secondly, IMP-1088 is “100 times more potent” than the past trial, says professor Ed Tate. The success rate in NMT blockage of the parasite was far beyond any results prior. Additionally, earlier drugs designed to block NMT were too toxic to beneficial. IMP-1088 did not damage cultured human cells. Of course, more research will be needed to confirm that the drug is safe for use. Though, these findings have finally given us convincing hope to finding a cure to the common cold.