Image of the Common Cold Virus

Posted on March 26, 2009  Comments (2)

image of the rhino virus (human cold)image created by Dr. Jean-Yves Sgro, Institute for Molecular Virology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, from published X-ray data. larger image

Sequences capture the code of the common cold

Conducted by teams at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, UW-Madison and the J. Craig Venter Institute, the work to sequence and analyze the cold virus genomes lays a foundation for understanding the virus, its evolution and three-dimensional structure and, most importantly, for exposing vulnerabilities that could lead to the first effective cold remedies.

“We’ve had bits and pieces of these things for a long time,” says Ann Palmenberg, of UW-Madison’s Institute for Molecular Virology and the lead author of the new study. “Now, we have the full genome sequences and we can put them into evolutionary perspective.”

As its name implies, the common cold is an inescapable, highly contagious pathogen. Humans are constantly exposed to cold viruses, and each year adults may endure two to four infections, while schoolchildren can catch as many as 10 colds.

“We know a lot about the common cold virus,” Palmenberg explains, “but we didn’t know how their genomes encoded all that information. Now we do, and all kinds of new things are falling out.”

The newly sequenced viruses also show, says Palmenberg, why it is unlikely we will ever have an effective, all-purpose cold vaccine: The existing reservoir of viruses worldwide is huge and, according to the new study, they have a tendency to swap genetic sequences when cells are infected by more than one virus, a phenomenon that can lead to new virus strains and clinical manifestations.

The ability of different cold virus strains to swap genes and make entirely new strains was thought to be impossible, notes Claire M. Fraser-Liggett, a co-author of the new study and director of the Institute for Genome Sciences and professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “There is the possibility that this could lead to the emergence of a new rhinovirus strain with fairly dramatic properties,” says Fraser-Liggett.

Related: Common Cold Alters the Activity of GenesLearning How Viruses Evade the Immune SystemLethal Secrets of 1918 Flu Virusimages of snowflakes

2 Responses to “Image of the Common Cold Virus”

  1. Lloyd
    March 27th, 2009 @ 2:53 am

    That is remarkable. Now kill it! =)

  2. Anshir
    March 29th, 2009 @ 10:12 am

    it look like awesome 🙂

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