• Question: why hasn't anybody with all of our medical knowledge yet found a cure for the comman cold

    Asked by driscolld09 to Cat, Daz, Holly, Johnson, Pamela on 22 Jun 2011. This question was also asked by kianm.
    • Photo: Cat O'Connor

      Cat O'Connor answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      Probably one of the best questions I think we’ve been asked Driscolld09!

      It does sound like a no-brainer that because we know so much, and a cold affects everyone that this should be priority number one right???

      But there are loads of reason why we haven’t got a cure yet. One reason is that the common cold is caused by a virus, and viruses are sneaky things, and like to change the way they look really often so that our bodies can’t recognise straight away that this is something they’ve seen before and know how to get rid of it! I think viruses are perhaps our greatest enemy!

      Also there are quite a number of different viruses that can produce the same symptoms that we call a common cold!

      With these two things combined, it’s really hard to create a vaccine to stop people getting sick. And this is because vaccines are normally very specific and they work by telling the body what nasties they need to be looking out for so that the body knows how to kill them. But if the virus keeps changing, and common cold viruses change a lot, the we’d have to have a separate vaccine for every different type!

      I think right now they are trying to develop better vaccines and ones that can be used against a whole host of different viruses but we’re not there yet. Right now we’ll just have to keep sneezing and sniffling until we get one!

      Hope this answers your question!


    • Photo: Pamela Lithgow

      Pamela Lithgow answered on 18 Jun 2011:

      Hi driscolld09,
      I think Cat has given you a very good answer above! It is defineately an issue that it changes so much so even if they were to try and “cure” it it would probably change and escape it.
      Another thing is that although it is annoying a cold is not actually that bad for you. It may even be good for you in the long run! Your immune system (all the cells which fight off viruses and bacteria) response to the virus which cause the cold and this is good. It is thought if you don’t activate your immune system in the correct way it will start go wrong and people get immune diseases from it.
      I hope that adds to Cats answer
      Pam 🙂

    • Photo: Darren Braddick

      Darren Braddick answered on 22 Jun 2011:

      Hi driscolld09 and kianm

      Sorry for the late response to your excellent question!

      The fact is that the virus which causes the cold has a very high rate of mutation. Basically to copy itself, it needs to copy its DNA into two copies. The protein which does this exists and does the same thing in humans and animals very very very accurately.

      The one which does it in the virus, however, is very inaccurate and makes many mistakes. This is usually bad – in fact most cancers seem to be caused by mistakes in the DNA. In the virus however, it can help. This is because the DNA makes protein, and the proteins make the virus – they make its shell and enable it to do things like copy itself, and infect humans.

      Those proteins are the target of our cures and drugs – for example we use drugs which kill the proteins which make its DNA or make its shell. The mutations in DNA mean the proteins are different, and occasionally they become immune to our drugs and cures!

      The virus which causes the cold is very good at avoiding any drugs, and so it can usually infect us many times in one season or year, and also why we may not find a cure easily.

      Actually for the same reason as the drugs, the human immune system works by recognising specific parts of proteins of the virus – so if they change, the immune system no longer recognises the virus. If the immune system CAN recognise the same virus, it can attack it much much quicker the second time you catch the cold. If it cannot recognise, you suffer the whole cold just like before, time and time again.

      I hope this helps answer your question!