A tiny molecule found in the immune systems of humans and animals could be used to develop a cure for the common cold, new research suggests.

Now it is hoped scientists will use this information to develop drugs that treat the common cold and help to protect sufferers of chronic lung conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for whom viral infections can be extremely serious.

A team at Edinburgh Napier University have uncovered exciting new possibilities for treatments based on ‘antimicrobial peptides’ that occur naturally in humans and animals, and increase in response to infection.

A five-year study into peptides from different mammals found they all had properties that can combat rhinovirus, the main virus responsible for the common cold infection in humans.

Dr Peter Barlow, Associate Professor of Immunology & Infection at Edinburgh Napier, said: “There is no cure and no vaccine so the development of effective therapies for human rhinovirus, the main causal agent of the common cold, and one of the most common causes of viral respiratory tract infections, is an urgent requirement. This study represents a major step towards finding a treatment.”