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The Continuing Cold War


Summary: Research centre dedicated to finding cure for common cold


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The Continuing Cold WarThe densely populated cities of the modern world provide ideal breeding grounds for common cold viruses, and few of us escape infection. Indeed, most adults suffer 2 to 5 colds per year, and infants and pre-school children have an average of 4 to 8. For most of us they are rarely serious, but in babies and the elderly, they can lead to potentially fatal chest infections.

Among the working population, there are implications for the economy in days lost through illness.

The quest for a cure remains elusive - not least because there are more than 200 different viruses which can cause cold symptoms. Viruses are much smaller than bacteria and have no cellular structure. Indeed, they need to get inside cells, such as those in the lining of the nose to replicate.

However, scientists are winning the Cold War on a different front - by overcoming those familiar symptoms of a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, headache, sore throat, coughing and fever.

Leading the battle are the scientists in the Common Cold Research Centre, at Cardiff University, UK. Under the leadership of Professor Ron Eccles, the centre is the only one of its kind in the world dedicated to research into the symptomatic relief of the common cold, influenza and hay fever.

But the Cold War can only be won with the support of an army of volunteers - and that is one of the ways in which the Centre benefits from being based in a major British university. Young people are more prone to colds because their immunity is still developing, and a student population of more than 16,000 and a further 3,500 staff provide the Centre with a ready source of cold-sufferers to try out the various medications.

Hot drinks, soups and even a spicy curry can sometimes alleviate the suffering associated with a cold - by promoting airway secretions which can calm an inflamed throat.

But every year, more than 1,000 of members of the University community visit the Centre with cold symptoms, to take part in clinical trials. While they are waiting, they can watch videos or play computer games, as scientists continue their work to "zap" the symptoms of colds and 'flu for good.

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Page contact: Tom Abbott Last revised: Wed 26 Oct 2005
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