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Wednesday, 19 May, 1999, 04:28 GMT
Researchers grab colds by the throat
Scientists are getting closer to an elusive cold cure

One of the viruses behind the common cold can be turned back before it takes hold in the body, say researchers in the US.

Despite the latest study from the Medical University of South Carolina, a cure for the common cold is still some way off.

Researchers have been encouraged by results that suggest prevention may be possible.

But a leading doctor has expressed fears that the method they use to block the cold virus may expose patients to other risks.

The study, published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, used an artificially produced molecule called Tremacamra,which is sprayed into the nose and throat.

It sticks to the areas which are normally attacked by rhinoviruses, which are blamed for 70% of nose and throat infections.

The researchers gave a dose of one rhinovirus to 196 volunteers. They had been taking Tremacamra by nasal spray six times a day either a few hours before, or up to 12 hours after infection.

One quarter cold-free

A quarter of those given the blocking molecule did not get colds, and the severity of cold symptoms was reduced for those who did come down with the infection, say researchers.

Study author Ronald Turner said: "The reduction in symptoms was apparent regardless of whether the drug was given before or after."

Dr Kenneth McIntosh, of Childrens' Hospital, Harvard Medical School, praised the study, but expressed concern about unknown toxic effects of Tremacamra.

He wrote in JAMA: "Despite the encouraging findings, of the study, it is clear that the 'cure for the common cold' is still not in hand.

"The next step will be determining whether Tremacamra can be used to treat symptomatic rhinovirus infection or to prevent clinical colds in the field.

"Only then may the elusive Holy Grail of an effective cure be in sight."

A medical solution to the common cold has been impossible to find mainly due to the high numbers of constantly changing viruses. There are at least a 100 different types of rhinovirus.

Because of this, cold vaccines have had only limited success, as have other anti-viral treatments

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