SNUFFLES, runny noses and the misery that goes with the common cold may be at an end if the latest findings from the US prove right. Scientists there are reported to have found that the so called common cold virus can be defeated by a zinc based compound taken in lozenge form.
Simple to use, safe and cheap, the compound can stop a cold before it gets a grip if taken as soon as the symptoms appear, according to a research team led by Prof Sabrina Novick at Hofstra University, in New York state. The scientists found that the compound prevented the cold virus from attacking human cells.
"The lotto will be small money if they're right," said Prof Irene Hillary, former director of the National Virus Reference laboratory. But she was sceptical. There were 100 forms of the cold virus, she said, adding that zinc was not the first element scientists believed might hold a cure.
Prof Hillary, a consultant microbiologist and medical consultant with Claymon Laboratories, said she would like to see the results.
According to the US scientists, usual "remedies" just masked symptoms. Zinc ions, however, sat in molecular "canyons" in the cold virus, preventing it from sticking to healthy cells in, the nose and throat. These canyons are the same shape in all cold viruses, so one drug could be directed at them all.
Trials in the 1980s suggested zinc based compounds could shorten the duration of colds but scientists failed to confirm this. Prof Novick said, however, ingredients used to mask the bitter taste of zinc compounds cancelled its virus attacking abilities. Trials with a new compound showed the virus could be beaten, the Sunday Telegraph reported. Trial results by the researchers are expected to appear next month in the well respected journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
When writing a paper on the common cold, Prof Hillary herself came to a conclusion which she believes still holds true: "Leave it alone and it will last seven days. Treat it and it will last a week".