A CURE for the common cold could be available within a decade, experts believe.
There is currently no cure for the virus, which can leave people stricken for up to a fortnight.
Existing medication – such as lozenges and cough syrup – only ease symptoms.
But a drug that prevents people from catching a cold or shortens its duration is now on the horizon.
Researchers from the Universities of York, Leeds and Helsinki, have identified how a similar virus that causes flu and polio works.
They believe they can use this knowledge – likened to cracking the “Enigma Code” – to disrupt how it replicates.
This would act as a stepping stone to tackle an illness that affects more than two billion people a year worldwide.
Professor Reidun Twarock, from the University of York, said: “We are excited to make this crucial step forward.
“It gives us the opportunity to work with partners in identifying a drug treatment that a patient can take to prevent catching a cold from those around them – or to treat the symptoms of a cold after a patient has caught the virus.
“This would result in the cold being less virulent and lasting only for a short period.”
Professor Sarah Butcher, from the University of Helsinki, said: “This discovery could be a great leap forward in curing a host of conditions.”
But other virologists said the virus had “outwitted” scientists’ best efforts in finding a cure for three decades and there were still a number of hurdles to overcome.
Professor David Evans, from the University of St Andrews, said: “These are not trivial things to work out.
“Until they are, the best protection from the common cold is still regular handwashing and avoiding touching your face with your fingers.”
And Professor Jonathan Ball, from the University of Nottingham, said: “These viruses are adept at mutating – they are the archetypal shape-changers.
“Could the virus mutate and escape the effects of any such drug? We don’t know this will happen for sure, so it is definitely something worth exploring further.”
The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.
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