To top it all, the viruses develop quickly which is why they tend to gain resistance to any drugs rapidly.
Any virus needs this same human protein to make new copies of itself and, as this new molecule can target NMT, it can work against the common cold. All treatments against the cold are to treat the symptoms like a runny nose, fever or a sore throat. The researchers have made a molecule that has shown to the ability to block the multiple strains of the most common cold virus, rhinovirus.
According to the team, IMP-1088 is up to 100,000 times more effective at blocking viruses from hijacking our cell proteins than previous efforts, which they say leads to "complete suppression" of viral replication and infectivity. The researchers believe that it could work against other related viruses, including those responsible for polio and foot-and-mouth disease.
They applied the drug to human lung cells in the lab and it worked within minutes! Without this protein shield, a virus's genetic material is exposed and vulnerable.
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So far, these results have only been demonstrated in vitro - in experiments with human cells in the lab - so we don't have a proven cold cure that you can actually take.
The medicinal chemistry team in the Tate group at Imperial, led by Dr Andy Bell (who previously invented Viagra as a researcher at Pfizer), were originally looking for compounds that targeted the protein in malaria parasites.
"The way the drug works means that we would need to be sure it was being used against the cold virus, and not similar conditions with different causes, to minimize the chance of toxic side effects", said Tate. Instead it suppresses a human enzyme that the virus relies on to construct its capsid shell.
"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", he added. But some of the side effects were toxic.