Why The Common Cold has Taken So Long to "Cure"Watch
Why hasn’t The Common Cold been Cured Yet?
The common cold is one of the most infectious diseases in the world, affecting 99% of the world’s population during their lifetime.
Adults normally suffer 2-4 colds per year whereas children could suffer up to 10times per year.
In the UK, the cold is responsible for 30 million lost working days per year.
The common cold isn’t usually deadly, but it was first discovered and named in the 16 century. Why haven’t we found a cure for it yet?
How is it caused?
There are only 7 virus families identified to cause most cases of the cold.
However, these virus families were discovered to have serotypes – branches of sub-viruses with a common set of antigens.
These serotypes stimulate the immune system to respond (e.g. by producing antibodies). In total there are 200 serotypes, each of which have their own way of evading the immune system.
The most common cause of the common cold is the Human Rhinovirus (HRV). Rhinoviruses are simple structure, containing a single strand of RNA. They are also the smallest of the 7 virus families.
This strand of RNA allows the Rhinovirus to disguise itself in different proteins, stimulating the over-production of mucus. This mucus blocks air passages, irritating the cilia and thus causing the sneezing and coughing symptoms. This disguised form makes rhinovirus appear different to the immune system, despite the fact they are the same internally. This means that the immune system cannot create an antibody targeting Rhinovirus specifically.
In 1953, an epidemiologist called Winton Price took nasal washings of his co-workers after they began suffering symptoms of the flu. After growing their viruses in cell culture, it was discovered that the cells were too small to be the flu virus. This new virus was named the “JH Virus” soon after the discovery of Rhinovirus.
Price then attempted to create a vaccine for the “JH Virus” using dead rhinovirus cells. In clinical trials, it was discovered that those vaccinated against “JH”..” developed less colds than those who were not.
However, after further trials, it was discovered that the vaccine only worked in some people, suggesting that “JH…” was only one type of Rhinovirus.
In 1960, Interferons were discovered. Interferon is a drug class consisting of a group of proteins which are released by cells when they are attacked by a pathogen.
During blind tests, 32 volunteers were infected with rhinovirus, 16 volunteers were given interferon, and 16 given a placebo.
Out of the 16 volunteers given the placebo, 13 contracted the cold, whereas only 3 contracted the cold when given Interferon.
After more research, it was found that Interferon only worked when the drug was delivered at the same time as the virus, rendering it useless in the modern world.
Research was greatly hindered after the Common Cold Unit, a research facility, was closed in 1990. After the closing, many other scientists found it difficult to continue due to the raw size of the workload- (creating a vaccine for each of the 200 rhinovirus.).
In 2014, Martin Moore, a paediatrician in Atlanta, USA, had the idea of creating a vaccine consisting of multiple versions of rhinovirus. A vaccine consisting of 50 types of rhinovirus was developed.
This catalysed the development of vaccines and research, so preclinical trials could commence shortly after.
After animal tests, this approach seemed to work. Out of the 50 serotypes, 49 of them provoked a strong immune response, leading to the production of antibodies.
In August, grants and funds were given to Moore to follow his work, and clinical trials are due to start in the near future. If the vaccine is approved, mass vaccinations can take place, thus leading to herd immunity. After herd immunity, the pathogen can no longer thrive in human, and will therefore die out.
Why has it Taken So Long?
Like many diseases, there is a way to cure the cold, and there has been substantial developments in the past 3 years.
The reason for the slow development of the cure can be directly linked to funds and workload. But now with thousands of scientists and sufficient funds (backed by the likes of GSK and Johnson & Johnson), Scientists are currently on the edge of finalising a cure, which can be shortly rolled out to the public.