A cure for the common cold can be as simple as hijacking the human body instead of the virus. A new study explores the possibilities.

Finding A Loophole To Treat Colds

There are hundreds of variants of the viruses that cause the common cold, making it virtually impossible to create a vaccination against all of them. They also evolve and develop resistance to treatments very quickly. Many treatments involve soothing the symptoms instead.

Now, researchers from the Imperial College London may have found a loophole that will prevent the virus from spreading throughout the body.

According to the study published in Nature Chemistry, the team developed an ultra-potent molecule IMP-1088 that targets a protein called N-myristoyltransferase or NMT. The common cold virus uses NMT to make copies of itself, so blocking the protein should work on all of the strains.

As the molecule attacks the body instead of the virus, the different virus strains are unlikely to grow resistant to it.

"The idea is that we could give it to someone when they first become infected and it would stop the virus being able to replicate and spread," Prof. Ed Tate, the lead researcher of the study, explains to BBC. "Even if the cold has taken hold, it still might help lessen the symptoms."

He adds that the treatment could be an especially good option for people with health conditions such as asthma because a simple cold could lead easily to illnesses for them.

Tate acknowledges the radical nature of targeting the human body instead of the virus itself. However, he points out that it makes sense considering that treating the common cold is so tricky anyway.

The team is working on a version that's meant to be inhaled, which would help it reach the lungs more quickly.

No Toxic Effects On Human Body

The concept of hijacking the body instead of a virus is not new, according to a report from Eurekalert. However, many attempts to do it have been very toxic.

This research found that IMP-1088 is able to block a number of virus strains without negative effects on the human cells.

"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 minimise the chance of toxic side effects," Tate says.

Safety trials could take place in as early as two years.