By Jason DeRusha

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It has the runny nose, the persistent cough and the watery eyes. The only common thing about the common cold is what a common pain in the — everything — it is. But with a billion instances of the cold in the U.S. every year, why haven’t scientists found a cure?

First, there is no one cold.

“There are hundreds of them,” said Dr. Pat Schlivert, an infectious disease researcher at University of Minnesota School of Medicine.

Most of what we call “the cold” is caused by rhinovirus and there are more than 150 different strains.

“It mutates very rapidly. Even during the course of infection, that virus is changing. Your immune system when you recover, you may not be immune from it,” said Schlivert.

While the cold doesn’t kill, it does cause us to call in sick to work when we’re sick, or when we have to stay home for our kids. The University of Michigan estimates the cold costs the United States $40 billion a year.

If researchers could figure out how to keep the virus from attaching to our cells, they could design a drug to block it and we’d never get sick. German drug company Boehringer-Ingelheim came up with a molecule, called BIRR 4, that they deployed in a nasal spray, which did just that.

However, the science was difficult to develop, and the business concern over the cost to make it happen put the brakes on development.

Plus, even if you stop the virus, you have to also stop the immediate inflammatory response that causes the runny nose and itchy eyes.

“You could spend billions of dollars trying to figure this out and you may never get there,” said Schlivert.

This drug would have to be pretty powerful. You’d probably need a prescription, which could potentially send hundreds of millions of people flooding their doctor’s office. It would overwhelm the medical system.

“I won’t say they’ll never figure it out. But it’s gonna be a long, long time,” said Schlivert.

Jason DeRusha

Comments (12)
  1. C K says:

    Do you know what the first time the Star Spangeled Banner was played at a sports game? And why that song

  2. tom says:

    As with everything medical it all takes a long time. All the known diseases have no known cure. Why?? If the companies that do the research and the testing actually found a cure for something such as the common cold as they call it on the box of cough syrup, they would lose their funding to find the cure. which could be millions and millions of dollars. To find a cure to them its like throwing money away. How would they afford those nice houses, vacations, cars. That is the answer to most all of our problems in this country, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. isn’t that what America’s all about? Want a good question try this- Why do the rich keep getting richer, and the poor poorer?? one answer is – i will move my company to mexico let them make my product for .25 on the dollar and bring it to the states and sell it at $20 . hmmm profit yummy.

    1. Mot says:

      First, tom, if they found a cure for the common cold they would make billions of dollars. Most companies would like to make billions and billions over millions and millions. Also, it does take a long time for “everything medical” because of the FDA. Most medical goods have to be put through extremely rigorous testing before it can be used by humans, thanks to the FDA.

      Second, the poorer keep getting poorer because they can get some free money from the government. It’s not a whole lot of money, but enough to not have to work and get an education. Most of the rich people got an education, worked hard to climb the “ladder” and made a name for themselves. I’m not rich myself, but if I went through all that hard work to become a CEO I wouldn’t want to share all my hard work with people who collect free money.

      1. Charlie says:

        Wow, Mot, you have a very black-and-white view of things, I see. You act like all of us who are basically poor just don’t want to work hard. I have fought three distinct battles to get out of this rut in my ten short years as an adult, and all three attempts failed due to circumstances beyond my control.

        If I were a CEO, I would feel VERY guilty making millions of dollars every year while I watched the hourly-paid employees in my company come into work sick with the common cold time after time because they literally wouldn’t be able to pay rent if they took the day off.

        How would you feel if something catastrophic happened to you and you literally could not afford to feed yourself tomorrow? Would you starve with pride or humbly crawl back, accept the so-called “free money,” and admit your hypocrisy?

  3. J cast says:

    If you find the cure…no more Tylenol, end of business, period.

  4. casnart says:

    A company called Viropharma thought they had a curefor the common cold,pleconari . FDA shot it down. It’s now in clinical trials with Schering-Plough Corporation. Some speculation on the initial FDA refusal was what would happen to the billion dollar industry that is “cold relief”.

  5. IMaOnTheTake says:

    It’s cool and disturbing that we can catch a virus, become immune to it, it will evolve, and then make us sick again with the new version. Scary! Evolution is amazing, life tends to find a way to continue, that’s its job..

  6. Dusty says:

    There is a cure to the common cold and it’s on the shelves at the local Walgreens. It’s called Cold Eeze. Been cold free for 2 years and counting. It has stopped colds that have started. Ended colds early. and I keep it with me always. Great comfort to me that I can ‘blitz’ a cold before it gets a foot hold. I don’t have to be a hapless victim to whatever virus is floating around anymore!