02/01/2014 06:46 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 10:52 GMT

Why Do We Catch A Cold Two To Three Times A Year?

Brigitte Sporrer via Getty Images

If you have a cold, the likelihood that it's your first one in 12 months is highly unlikely.

So why do we catch colds more than two or three times a year (aside from your work colleague who insists on coming to work ill)?

To try and find out why we often catch colds or how the common cold infects us, researchers from the Max F Perutz Laboratories of the Medical University of Vienna and the University of Vienna, in collaboration with two Spanish groups, have revealed an insight into this process.


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The common cold virus (rhinovirus) is a tiny, almost round particle, containing the tightly packed genetic material surrounded by a protein shell (the virus capsid).

Details on how the RNA in the virus leaves the shell and infects our bodies have been revealed, with Dieter Blaas from the Max F. Perutz Laboratories saying: “Interestingly we found that the conformation of the RNA, and in turn its interaction with the inner side of the virus capsid changes. This seems to be crucial to ‘avoid knots’ when the long thread-like RNA molecule is unfolded in order to exit the capsid.”

The findings may also reveal how the virus that causes hepatitis A work, as well as polio. This will be crucial to finding new ways to treat it.

The next step will be looking at how the virus positions itself on top of the cellular membrane, which enables it to multiply and produce more virus particles.



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