A Cure for the Common Cold?

MIT researchers have come up with an experimental new antiviral that could eliminate the winter sniffles for good.
This heartbreaking image may soon be a thing of the past. (Photo: Getty Images)
Dec 20, 2011· 1 MIN READ
Originally from Baltimore, Oliver lives and writes on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn.

I love a breakthrough in medical science, but this one sounds almost too good to be true.

According to BBC News, one of our most elusive, if not exactly deadliest, enemies is now on the ropes. Todd Rider, a research scientist at MIT, has been working on an antiviral drug called Draco that has successfully beaten the common cold in clinical trials with human tissue and mice.

The best part? It's worked against all 15 viruses they've pitted it against, including H1N1, a polio virus, dengue fever and the ebola virus.

Most antiviral drugs, like the ones for hepatitus and HIV, tackle their opponent head on, armed with specific weaponry tailored to penetrate the virus's defenses. With its over 200 variants and a quick mutation cycle, the cold virus has been a uniquely slippery enemy, which is why it is often ignored by researchers.

Rider's brilliant adapation was to infuse a "suicide switch" into the viruses themselves. To help the new drug protein penetrate them, he added a feature that mimics the HIV virus's ability to break into cells. Within hours, the RNA-sensing part of the drug detects the virus and triggers the suicide, killing both host cell and virus.

"I studied both biology and engineering back in the dark ages and really wanted to combine those studies," said Rider to the BBC. "Everyone in both departments thought I was crazy."

Though we won't be seeing Draco anytime soon—it has to go through years of clinical trials—I'm a big fan of Rider's top-down approach. With our mental and physical health governed by an ever-growing cocktail of prescription drugs, it's no wonder that stubborn anti-vaccine movements have sprouted up like weeds in recent years. If ever there was a time for a new penicillin, it's now, and it's good to see research reflecting the current zeitgeist. Even if they did name it after the bad guy in Harry Potter.