The common cold might not be cancer, but it’s sure is annoying. In the United States alone, doctors estimate one billion cases of the cold are recorded. For decades, scientists have been trying to come up with a vaccine that would neutralise the sore throat and running nose causing disease which is primarily triggered by rhinovirus infection.
The problem is that there are over 100 identified rhinoviruses and making a vaccine against one virus is rendered useless because there’s a whole armada out there. A team of researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine think they know how to make a common cold vaccine work, though. Their solution is simple: make a vaccine with all the rhinoviruses you can carry.
The first common cold vaccine was made in the 1960s. Back then, researchers showed it was possible to vaccinate people and prevent them from getting sick when put in contact with the virus. It only worked against a single strand of rhinovirus, though — the one they also placed in the vaccine. The sheer number of rhinoviruses circulating all around us has made a lot of scientists abandon hope that a common cold vaccine is feasible.
How to reduce the risk of getting a cold
– Wash your hands often with soap and water. f soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Viruses that cause colds can live on your hands, and regular handwashing can help protect you from getting sick.
– Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
– Stay away from people who are sick
Emory University researchers, however, applied a simple straightforward solution to a seemingly complicated problem. They made a mixture of 25 types of inactivated rhinovirus, then injected them in 25 mice. They also made a mixture of 50 types of such viruses and injected them in rhesus macaques.
In response to the vaccine, both mice and monkeys created antibodies which later proved to prevent the virus from infecting human cells cultured in a dish.
“We think that creating a vaccine for the common cold can be reduced to technical challenges related to manufacturing,” says Martin Moore, associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine.
“It’s surprising that nobody tried such a simple solution over the last 50 years. We just took 50 types of rhinovirus and mixed them together into our vaccine, and made sure we had enough of each one,” Moore says. “If we make a vaccine with 50 or 100 variants, it’s the same amount of total protein in a single dose of vaccine. The variants are like a bunch of slightly different Christmas ornaments, not really like 50 totally different vaccines mixed.”
The researchers, however, could not test to see whether the animals themselves got sick because there isn’t any reliable animal model for rhinoviruses. Instead, the next thing the researchers plan to do is start a clinical trial with human subjects, something which is deemed feasible considering the non-pathological nature of the common cold. And if the results are confirmed in humans, then millions of sore throats will be made much happier in those cold winter nights.
Findings appeared in Nature Communications.
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!