A newly identified protein may be the key to vanquishing the common cold

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(Simon Makin / Scientific American) — In a study published Monday in Nature Microbiology, microbiologist Jan Carette of Stanford University and his colleagues report they have found a human gene that produces a protein essential to the function of numerous enteroviruses, a genus that includes rhinoviruses.

Experiments in human cells and mice showed a range of enteroviruses cannot replicate without this host protein. The work could pave the way for antivirals effective against multiple illnesses—including most cases of the common cold—and sheds new light on how viruses exploit their host’s own cellular material.

Carette and his colleagues have “done a tour de force here, to find this gene and characterize it,” says Ann Palmenberg, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who provided some advice and materials for the study but was not directly involved in it. “It’s a beautiful piece of work.” (…)

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