Annals of Medical Research: The First Step Toward Curing the Common Cold Is Being Less Than Completely Wrong About It

The British press is trumpeting a

scientific advance

that could supposedly cure the common cold—along with norovirus and rotavirus—very soon. The Guardian

calls it

“a dramatic breakthrough that could affect millions of lives” and estimates that clinical drug trials “could begin within two to five years” (

via The Awl


The science-news blog at Nature has a

more cautious take

: “[A] a cure for the common cold, this paper is not. Not even close”:

The researchers, led by Leo James at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, found that one kind of adenovirus can enter cultured human cells after the researchers treated the viruses with antibodies. Once inside the cells, TRIM21 appears to latch onto the antibodies and shuttle the viruses to cellular structures that recycle proteins, called proteosomes, where the viruses are destroyed.

Before this, immunologists has believed that antibodies did all their work outside the body’s cells. So there apparently is a whole dimension to the body’s immune response to viruses that had not previously been understood. The optimistic reading of this is that medical science has made a powerful fundamental discovery about how to fight viral infections. A less optimistic reading is that as of 2010, medical science is still figuring out the basic facts about how and why people catch colds.