Drug molecule brings cure for the common cold closer

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Viruses "hijack" NMT from human cells to construct the protein "shell", or capsid, which protects the virus genome.

They are also developing a way to deliver the drug via the lungs.

Because this kind of strategy targets the human protein that helps the virus replicate it means that any treatment developed should be effective against different strains of the virus that emerge, making this a truly universal common cold cure.

Researcher Prof Ed Tate said: "The idea is that we could give it to someone when they first become infected and it would stop the virus being able to replicate and spread".

For these reasons, most cold remedies rely on treating the symptoms of the infection - such as runny nose, sore throat and fever - rather than tackling the virus itself. Scientists hope the new molecule, code-named IMP-1088, can be administered simply using an inhaler. In vitro testing using human cells found the new molecule completely blocked the replication of several cold virus strains.

By targeting the human protein and not the virus itself, the molecule makes the emergence of resistant viruses highly unlikely.

They're working on making a form of the drug that can be inhaled as a way to reduce any further risks or complications.

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 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 research team included the labs of Professor Roberto Solari and Professor Seb Johnston at Imperial's National Heart & Lung Institute, Dr Aurelie Mousnier from Imperial and Queen's University Belfast, structural biologists at the University of York, and colleagues at the Pirbright Institute.

However, the safety of the drug will not be established for sure until it has undergone human trials.

The molecule was initially discovered when searching for a way to take on malaria parasites. Finding two specific compounds, the team produced a novel molecule called IMP-1088, which specifically inhibits NMT.