Researchers lab-test molecule that may combat common cold virus

May 15, 2018, 15:27
Researchers lab-test molecule that may combat common cold virus

Researchers in the United Kingdom have identified a key protein in the body that allows the multiple viruses that cause a cold to spread through cells. Most current cold treatments do no more than alleviate symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, and fever. If successful, a new drug could be available within seven years. When a cold virus replicates, it takes a protein called N-myristoyltransferase (NMT) from host cells to build its capsid, a protein shell that surrounds the virus's genome.

The lab studies suggest it could stop any cold virus in its tracks if it is administered early enough. The results of initial tests are published today in the journal Nature Chemistry.

Researchers are now working on a drug that can be inhaled for people who have just started getting the sniffles.

Lead researcher Professor Ed Tate, from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial, said: "The common cold is an inconvenience for most of us, but can cause serious complications in people with conditions like asthma and COPD".

But researchers at Imperial College London have developed a molecule known as IMP-1088 which could work around these restrictions. In these human cell tests there was no sign of broader cytotoxicity and this NMT strategy could have applications for viral infections other than the common cold, including foot and mouth disease and poliovirus.

The molecule targets a human protein and not the virus itself, making emergence of resistant viruses highly unlikely.

By contrast, the new molecule successfully blocked the several strains it was trialed against without damaging the human cells. However, further studies are needed to ensure that the drug is not toxic in the body.

However, the discovery of a new molecule, code-named IMP-1088, offers a slightly different approach to the problem by treating the human cells.

Roberto Solari, visiting Fellow at the National Heart & Lung Institute, says he's reasonably optimistic. Screening large libraries of compounds, they found two hits and were surprised to discover that they worked best together.

Previous efforts to create drugs that target human cells rather than infections have failed thanks to "toxic side effects". Note: material may have been edited for length and content.

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