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BSI response to study on genome of human parechovirus (related to common cold viruses)

23 February 2017

Swine flu virus. Credit: NIAIDA paper published today in Nature Communications reports on a new approach to targeting a wide variety of viruses. They studied the human parechovirus, which is related to common cold viruses (rhinoviruses).  In response, the BSI has issued the following statement:

Professor Peter Openshaw, Professor of Experimental Medicine at Imperial College London, and British Society for Immunology President, said:

"These are interesting but preliminary results from a good team of scientists, identifying a new possible approach to finding drugs that could be effective against a large group of viruses. It’s certainly a novel avenue to be explored, but a long way from finding cures for the common cold.

"The team looked at the structure of a specific virus (parechovirus) that is related to common cold viruses (rhinoviruses). They don’t know if their findings are applicable to all the related viruses. Even if their findings did apply to rhinoviruses (and it may not, as they say clearly in the paper), that's a long way from getting an antiviral that works and is safe.

"Even if it were possible to get a safe and active drug, there are doubts about the use of antivirals once symptoms are present in short-term infections like colds. They might work in blocking the virus but not be so effective against the symptoms unless started very early- ideally before you even know the cold is brewing.

"So this is excellent science, but far from any practical application in the immediate future. It’ a great start, but it’s a long way from ‘cracking the Enigma code’ of the common cold."

The full paper that this comment is response will be published on Thursday 23 February at: Shakeel et al. 2017 Nature Communications DOI: 10.1038/s41467-016-0011-z