It is both the world's most widespread infectious disease and one of the most elusive.
But researchers at Imperial College London have developed a molecule known as IMP-1088 which could work around these restrictions.
Early studies in the lab are promising but it still needs to be tested in animal and human studies before it could hit the market. The virus takes over NMT and constructs a protein shell (capsid) to protect the virus genome. Most current cold treatments do no more than alleviate symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, and fever. In these human cell tests there was no sign of broader cytotoxicity and this NMT strategy could have applications for viral infections other than the common cold, including foot and mouth disease and poliovirus.
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The viruses can not become resistant to the molecule because it targets the human protein and not the virus.
Because all strains of the cold virus use the same mechanism, the research raises the possibility of a universally effective treatment.
Also, earlier drugs created to block NMT were too toxic to be of benefit.
The rhinovirus family has more than 100 variants, meaning that developing a vaccine has proved elusive.
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"A drug like this could be extremely beneficial if given early in infection, and we are working on making a version that could be inhaled, so that it gets to the lungs quickly". This means it is very hard to pin down a drug that works against the virus.
The molecule targets a human protein and not the virus itself, making emergence of resistant viruses highly unlikely. In vitro testing using human cells found the new molecule completely blocked the replication of several cold virus strains. Further study is needed to make sure it is not toxic in the body.
Dr Peter Barlow, from Edinburgh Napier University and the British Society for Immunology, said: "There are now no drugs or vaccines for rhinovirus that have been licensed for use in humans". The team's findings were recently published in the journal Nature Chemistry.
The new treatment worked within minutes on human lung cells and research leader Professor Ed Tate said he was "optimistic" his team have finally found a cure.
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