A cure for the common cold could soon become a reality after scientists from the Universities of Leeds, York and Helsinki say they’ve cracked the ‘hidden code’ buried deep within the virus.
Banishing the sniffles actually begun in 2015 when scientists at the Universities of Leeds and York identified a series of encrypted signals buried inside a plant virus.
What they found was that these signals were incredibly similar to those found in Parechovirus, which can infect humans and can cause sepsis-like illness and meningitis in children.
What they found was that this signal was identical in all forms of the virus including Human Parechovirus which is a member of the Picornavirus family that includes the common cold.
This signal could then lead to a single drug which would treat all of them.
So what’s the significance of this? Well one of the key problems has been that a virus like the common cold mutates to a fantastical degree making it incredibly difficult to eradicate.
By discovering a common theme across all these viruses the team are now hunting for anti-viral drugs which can target this decoding mechanism.
Professor Peter Stockley, from the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at the University of Leeds, said: “The coding works like the cogwheels in a Swiss watch. We now need a drug that has the same effect as pouring sand into the watch; every part of the viral mechanism could be disabled.
The teams are now working closely with the pharma-industry with the hope being that there will be drug development results within the next 10 years.
Professor Reidun Twarock, a mathematical biologist at the University of York’s Departments of Mathematics, Biology, and the York Centre for Complex Systems Analysis, said: “Previously scientists have assumed that the signals regulating the assembly of a virus were located in a unique area of the genome.”
“The common cold infects more than two billion people annually, making it one of the most successful viral pathogens, so we are excited to make this crucial step forward.”