The common cold is caused by viruses with hundreds of variants, and these overwhelming numbers can hinder efforts to immunize or vaccinate ourselves against them. The viruses also tend to evolve and build up resistance against drugs rapidly. As a result, people have always treated colds by easing the symptoms rather than directly targeting the virus.

But researchers at Imperial College London have developed a molecule known as IMP-1088 which could work around these restrictions. Their study titled "Fragment-derived inhibitors of human N-myristoyltransferase (NMT) block capsid assembly and replication of the common cold virus" was published in the journal Nature Chemistry on May 14.

Preventing the "hijacking"

"The common cold is an inconvenience for most of us but can cause serious complications in people with conditions like asthma and COPD," explained lead researcher Ed Tate, a professor from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial College.

In particular, rhinoviruses are known to be the cause of acute upper respiratory tract infections and the common cold, in addition to worsening conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis.

The molecule works by blocking a key protein in our cells known as NMT. When a person catches a cold, the virus is dependent on the protein as it operates by “hijacking” NMT and making copies of itself.

"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.

Advantages and safety

This approach is also advantageous as the virus cannot develop resistance when the drug only affects the human protein, added the researchers. The molecule could also work against the poliovirus and the virus that causes foot and mouth disease.

Previous attempts to create such a drug were limited in capability as they often caused dangerous side effects. While IMP-1088 did not cause any harm to human cells in the laboratory, the researchers cautioned trials and further research were required to test its safety.

“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.

Dealing with a cold

For now, there are a few other ways you can prevent or fight a cold. To protect yourself, practice habits such as washing your hands and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers. A healthy diet filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can also help by boosting your immunity.

According to MedlinePlus, a fever of 100°F or higher, cough, fatigue, a runny nose, and a sore throat are symptoms that you already have the virus.

In this case, make sure you are getting rest and ensuring an adequate intake of fluids. Choose to stay at home as you might expose others to the virus if you spend the day in the office. Here is a list of the best medications you can opt for based on the kind of symptoms you are experiencing.