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Researchers crack the code of the common cold
Date:2/21/2009

Scientists have begun to solve some of the mysteries of the common cold by putting together the pieces of the genetic codes for all the known strains of the human rhinovirus. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have completed the genomic sequences of the viruses and assembled them into a "family tree," which shows how the viruses are related, with their commonalities and differences. The study will be released on the online version of the journal Science (Science Express) at 2 p.m. EST on February 12.

The researchers say this work provides a powerful tool that may lead to the development of the first effective treatments against the common cold.

"There has been no success in developing effective drugs to cure the common cold, which we believe is due to incomplete information about the genetic composition of all these strains," says the study's senior author, Stephen B. Liggett, M.D., professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of its Cardiopulmonary Genomics Program.

"We generally think of colds as a nuisance, but they can be debilitating in the very young and in older individuals, and can trigger asthma attacks at any age. Also, recent studies indicate that early rhinovirus infection in children can program their immune system to develop asthma by adolescence," says Dr. Liggett, who is a pulmonologist and molecular geneticist.

Major discoveries of the study

The researchers found that human rhinoviruses are organized into about 15 small groups that come from distant ancestors. The discovery of these multiple groups explains why a "one drug fits all" approach for anti-viral agents does not work. But, says Dr. Liggett, "Perhaps several anti-viral drugs could be developed, targeted to specific genetic regions of certain groups. The choice of which drug
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Contact: Bill Seiler
bseiler@umm.edu
410-328-8919
University of Maryland Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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