It's not a cure just yet, but researchers have found a way to stop the spread of viruses that cause half of all common colds. Teams at Stanford and the University of California-San Francisco used gene editing to prevent cells from supplying a protein that the viruses need to replicate, the BBC reports. That method worked in human cell cultures and genetically modified mice. "Lacking that gene protected the mice completely from viral infection," a Stanford researcher says. The method also blocked viruses related to asthma, encephalitis and polio, per Stanford. The study was published this week in Nature Microbiology.
The rhinoviruses that cause most colds have been difficult to go after, because they can hide from the immune system and quickly become resistant to new drugs. So researchers struck upon a different strategy. The idea now is to "make the host inhospitable for these viruses," the Stanford researcher said, per ABC. The researchers don't plan to start trials on humans. What's needed now is a drug that temporarily checks the protein needed by the virus to replicate—otherwise, we'd need to create genetically modified people for this method to work. Next, the drug would be tested. It's way too early to know what the drug would cost, but colds are estimated to cost the US economy a cool $40 billion a year. That's on top of the agony for cold sufferers, of course. (Read more common cold stories.)