No cure for common cold

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The Independent Online
AFTER 10 YEARS and pounds 5m spent on research - including the painstaking construction of a 2ft-high model of a cold virus - the head of the Common Cold Centre has reached a rather important conclusion. There is no cure for the common cold.

Professor Ron Eccles, the director of the centre at University of Wales, Cardiff, said yesterday: "I don't foresee a cure in which we eradicate all the viruses. I think the best we can hope for is to live at peace with it.

"The trouble is there are more than 200 different viruses which causes colds. Finding a single cure is like trying to cure measles, chickenpox, mumps and rubella all at once."

Though the depth of the centre's knowledge is not to be sneezed at - it is the only one of its kind in the world - some may wonder why it has taken a decade to reach this conclusion.

But Professor Eccles insisted that the centre had had to explore all the possible therapies. And while treatments may not be able to defeat the family of cold viruses, they can alleviate their symptoms.

The cold is the most prevalent disease among humans: every day, about 50 million people worldwide wake up with one. On average, each Briton has two a year and their duration is equivalent, over a lifetime, to having a cold for a total of three years.

The suggestion now is that prevention is better than an attempt at a cure. "It could be that our lifestyle and diet hold the key," said Professor Eccles.

The centre has tested hundreds of potential cold cures, including high-tech antiviral agents, and various products developed by drugs companies to alleviate the symptoms.

To conclude that there is not - and will not - be a single, simple cure actually guarantees the centre's future. Its annual funding of about pounds 500,000 for 10 staff is from research contracts from drugs companies, which pay it to test the efficacy of prototype cold and flu treatments.

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