November 11, 2008
A new study could lay the groundwork for curing the symptoms of the common cold.
University of Virginia researchers are studying the way a common cold virus affects the genes in your body. It's not the virus that's the problem. It's the way we react to it.
Dr. Ronald Turner, UVa Professor of Pediatrics, is one of the researchers studying a way to treat and stop the sore throats, coughing, and sneezing.
"What we've done here is we've defined how you get those symptoms," says Dr. Turner.
He says human rhinovirus causes over half of the colds we get, but the virus is not the reason you feel sick.
"The rhinovirus itself doesn't actually produce any symptoms directly," Dr. Turner explains.
It's actually your body's response to the infection that makes you ill, so now the goal is to target your body's response instead of the virus. That's proving to be the real key to treating symptoms.
Dr. Turner says, "We know that those responses are not necessary to get rid of the virus, so you get rid of the virus regardless of whether you have those responses that are producing symptoms."
This study lays the groundwork. Once they change a person's response to the infection, you can stop feeling sick from a cold.
"I would argue that there's not much difference between curing the cold and getting rid of the symptoms, you're not curing the infection but by getting rid of the symptoms you're basically curing the patient," says Dr. Turner.
So you may want to know when you'll be able to take a pill or some type of medication to cure the cold. Dr. Turner says it's too early to go there. Now that they have the information about why you get sick they are much closer to getting you better.
In this study, researchers looked at people infected with the virus and people who were not. They compared their responses at a genetic level to figure out what genes in your body are turned on by infections.