Professor Dave Stuart and his team have developed a drug that can fight off the common cold, bringing hope of a cure a step closer. The drug could help prevent millions from catching the virus by blocking its transmission to others. It could also be used against potentially fatal illnesses including polio and hand, foot and mouth disease, which causes cold-like symptoms and, while treatable, has caused thousands of deaths worldwide.
When asked about the new drug, Prof Stuart said: “At the moment there are a number of drugs that are effective against the flu. But there are no drugs available at all against the whole group of viruses that include the common cold, polio and hand, foot and mouth disease. If everything goes very well and we are patient, hopefully we might be in a position where there is the first viable treatment for the common cold.”
Researchers at the University of Oxford studied the structure of the EV71 virus, which causes hand, foot and mouth disease, and made a compound that stopped it in its tracks. The compound is designed to bind to the virus, paralysing it and preventing it from releasing the genetic material that causes infection. This means the drug could be used to treat the infection and, as a preventative measure, stop the virus from spreading. Scientists working on the drug have tested the compound on other viruses closely related to EV71 – including the cold virus – and discovered it is effective against all of them.