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A cure for the common cold has moved a step closer after scientists claimed to have “cracked” the genetic code which underpins the illness’s many strains.
Developing vaccines to tackle colds is considered largely futile because the virus mutates.
However, researchers now say a simple gene-targeting drug able to cure all examples of the virus may be available within ten years.
Until now, scientists studying the Human Parechovirus had believed that the signals regulating the assembly of a virus were located in a small area of the genome.
But now a British-Finnish team has established that the virus forms as a result of multiple dispersed sites in the genome acting together
They found that details of the decoding mechanism appeared identical in all strains of the virus, potentially allowing a single drug to treat them all, something that is not possible with a vaccine.
The next stage is to screen for potential anti-viral drugs that target this decoding mechanism which could potentially see drug development results within the next ten years.
Professor Peter Stockley at 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.
“We need to move away from a vaccine approach, which is what we have for flu and polio.”
He added that protecting against infection by the use of vaccines was “both very expensive and logistically difficult”.
Professor Sarah Butcher, from Helsinki, said: “This new research means that treatment would be less likely to trigger drug resistance, which is currently one of the major problems in anti-viral therapy.
“This discovery could be a great leap forward in curing a host of conditions.”
The study was published in Nature Communications.