Pesky Sniffles


The ever pesky sniffles, the cough that makes you sound like a dying pirate, the whole body aches as if you just rolled down some steep stairs, lethargy that glues you to your bed; all these are symptoms of the common cold. Who has not experienced it every other season? There are different types of cold viruses and treatment is not available for all of them. That is why sometimes people get sick for a long time and no medicine seems to work, because it is not tailored to the specific cold virus.

Until seven years ago, a type of cold virus called rhinovirus C was unknown in the medical community. Professor Ann Palmenberg and her colleagues, at the Biochemistry Department of Wisconsin-Madison University, were able to create a topographical model of the protein shell of rhinovirus C. With the help of genetic sequencing, researchers have created a 3D-model of the pathogen that sheds new light on why there is currently no cure for the common cold. The researchers believe that rhinovirus C is responsible for as many as half of all colds among children.

The detailed structural model of the cold virus shows that it has a different protein shell than other strains of cold viruses. This discovery explains  the failure of drug trials against rhinovirus.

"The A and B families of cold virus, including their three-dimensional structures, have long been known to science, as they can easily be grown and studied in the lab .… Rhinovirus C, on the other hand, resists culturing and escaped notice entirely until 2006 when ‘gene chips’ and advanced gene sequencing revealed the virus had long been lurking in human cells alongside the more observable A and B virus strains.”

Now that pharmaceutical companies have a model to work with, they can design drugs that are more effective. They have also already created drugs that work well against the A and B strains of cold virus. Now that they know the C strain better, they can create more effective drugs that perhaps will cure the common cold. Hopefully, in the near future, those persistent nasty colds will be a thing of the past.

To check out the mapping of the virus check this video:


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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