|Common cold mysteries beginning to unwrap|
|Written by Melissa Castor, Daily Vidette Reporter|
|Monday, 25 January 2010 19:43|
Despite the elusive nature of the common cold, a group of researchers took their first steps last year toward finding a cure by mapping the entire genome of the 99 strains of the cold.
Since then, the University of Maryland researchers have made progress in both mapping and gaining a better understanding of the ever-evolving cold, also referred to as the rhinovirus.
In a recent cnn.com article, Stephen B. Liggett, co-leader of the project and professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Maryland, said the group has continued to see a trend in which a new strain of virus can appear from two different strains of rhinoviruses.
H. Tak Cheung, chair and professor of biological sciences said, “Rhinovirus, or the common cold virus, is very diverse and this is due to the self-service proteins that are present on the virus. These proteins are responsible for attacking and attaching themselves to the
ICAM-1 molecule,” which is an intercellular adhesion molecule.
“The rhinovirus is quite interesting, [because] we do not seem to be able to develop immunity to rhinovirus like many other infectious diseases,” Cheung said.
The researchers have been working towards a diagnostic test for the virus. At first, it was predicted that the test would cost around $2,000. Now the test may one day be found in doctors’ offices for only $20.
super-type. If viruses within that super-type, or sub-types, can be blocked by those antibodies, then you can at least reduce the incidence of the common cold,” Cheung said.
“The production of the vaccine will lie in the understanding of the relationship between one type of rhinovirus versus another type. Having that genetic information … one can find a way to understand how the various types are related to each other,” he said.
Despite this positive outlook, not everyone is sold that the research is such an urgent matter.
Wade Nichols, associate professor of biological sciences, said, “But the question is, are colds a big enough problem that we want to put a lot of money into treatment? One of the problems with cold treatments is that you have the virus longer in terms of the symptoms.
The virus persists for a few days longer. If they can prevent it, that has some merit.”
However, both sides can agree that the search for treatment options for rhinovirus is important particularly for individuals who suffer from asthma. Treatments for this virus could greatly aid the reduction of asthma attacks associated with the common cold.
With this in mind, researchers continue to look into treatment options. In fact, last year researchers were able to identify 15 subgroups of the virus. This, however, was still too large a number to find a “one-drug-fits-all” treatment, Liggett said in a cnn.com article.
In the future, the team hopes to further narrow the 15 subgroups into five main groups making it easier for scientists to develop vaccines and treatments.
“I think a vaccine would be ideal. It’s a single thing you have to worry about once in life and then you’re protected. I think that’s actually the least likely outcome. I think there will always be new strains. I think you can justify new flu vaccines. I don’t know if you can justify tweaking vaccines for the common colds,” Nichols said.
“I think the nature of science is that you do what you can now and you wait for technology to catch up. We have the opportunity to do this now. I’m fine with them doing it. If nothing else we understand the virus much better,” he said.