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Rhinovirus Family TreeWhat do chicken soup, orange juice, keeping your feet warm and your hair dry when its cold all have in common?

Well, my mom was convinced they could either keep me from getting the common cold or at least make me feel better if I had it.

That’s right! To our parents’ generation you never questioned whether this lore actually worked. But the fact remains there’s still no cure for the common cold and that results in a huge economic cost.

Most common colds are caused by human rhinoviruses and a major hurdle to controlling them is that there are over one hundred types. But scientists have just made some headway by determining the total DNA sequences of 99 human rhinoviruses.

This allowed the whole viral genomes to be compared. To do this they constructed something called a phylogenetic tree which is like a family tree used for genealogy.

You know, Aunt Edna and Uncle Ralph begot Emily and Troy who are related to…

I get it… I get it… The good news is they were able to identify the viruses’ common elements. The challenge is the Rhinovirus family tree has many branches – making them an incredibly diverse group of microbes.

That means it’s hard to design one drug or one vaccine to handle all these viruses. So the strategy will likely involve targeting groups of the most problematic types.

Though challenging, this is still a better approach than designing drugs and hoping they’ll protect you. A lot of people would be grateful if we did find effective medical treatments for the common cold.

The chicken soup companies may be displeased… and my grandmother would have to come up with new advice.

Knowing granny… that wouldn’t be a problem.

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For more information…

Sequencing and Analyses of All Known Human Rhinovirus Genomes Reveals Structure and Evolution
Original journal article in Science explaining the sequencing and the characteristics of the known rhino viruses. Very technical explanation.
Palmenberg et al.
Science 12 February 2009: 1165557v1
DOI: 10.1126/science.1165557
For more information…

Rhinovirus Genome Suggests Cold Cure Will Always Be Elusive
Article discussing the implications of the sequencing and characterization of the known ∼90 rhinovirus genomes and what this means for controlling the common cold in the future.
For more information…

H1N1 vs Seasonal Flu vs Common Cold
Great information to help you distinguish between the common cold and the seasonal and H1N1 flu.
For more information…


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