The human race may be divided along racial, religious, ethnic, economic, political and any other arbitrary lines you care to choose, but we all share one enemy: the common cold.

Bringing with it blinding headaches, stuffy nose, sneezing and coughing, the common cold causes days of utter misery for millions of people across the globe every year.

And so far, there’s no cure.

Wouldn’t you jump for sheer joy if you knew that you’ll never see a pale face with a swollen red nose in the bathroom mirror again?

Well, here’s some news that may interest you.

That happy sight might be closer than you think.

Scientists at Edinburgh Napier University have uncovered exciting new possibilities for treating the common cold based on “antimicrobial peptides” that occur naturally in humans and animals, and which increase in response to infection.

Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are important components of the innate immune system.

The five-year study into peptides from different mammals found that the peptides had properties that can combat rhinovirus, the main virus responsible for the common cold.

The common cold is a viral infection that attacks the upper respiratory tract, and has long vexed scientists in their attempts to find a cure. Caused by viruses that mutate quickly, colds are difficult to treat because by the time a vaccine has been developed, the virus has mutated again.

Dr Peter Barlow, Associate Professor of Immunology & Infection at Edinburgh Napier described the research results as “an exciting development”.

He 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.”

Earlier research by Dr Barlow suggested that treatments that increased the level of antimicrobial peptides in a person infected with the flu virus could be successful in beating the disease.

In this study, researchers Filipa Henderson Sousa and Dr Victor Casanova used peptides “synthesized” in the laboratory to assess the impact of the different peptides on lung cells infected with human rhinovirus.

The peptides successfully attacked the virus. In future treatments for colds could be based on peptides found in nature.

What’s next?

The plan is to modify the peptide to make it even better at killing the rhinovirus. These research findings may be the beginning of the end of an old, nagging foe that nobody would be sorry to see for the last time.

Gesundheit!