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Name: Mrs. Garb's grateful class
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Question:
Hello! we are a 3/4 class in Rolling Meadows, IL. We are participating in the Toshiba Exploravision contest. Our team is studying technological advances in medicine. We would like to know if in the future there will be a cure for the common cold? Will we be able to technologically get rid of the cold forever?? Is research being done now to find a cure for the common cold? What is a common cold? We are going on vacation today. Hooray! we will be back in our class in two weeks. Please help us by leaving an answer to our questions.



Replies:
Thanks for your note, and Happy New Year!

I'll give my opinion on this question:

First there are many many disease causing bacteria , and many of the bacteria undergo genetic changes which makes them resistant to medicines we currently use.
As far as a cure for the common cold, my suspicion is that it, just like dandelions, will continue to be a constant, though non-deadly nuisance for us humans. The only solution would be to have all disease causing organisms (bacteria or viruses) removed from the earth. Something like that is not at all likely. Besides that, the fact is that we cannot get rid of all the earth's bacteria; our normal digestion, for example, relies on E. coli bacteria which live in our intestines. Without E. coli we would cease to exist. Other bacteria which break down things like dead leaves, animals, trees, etc. are essential to return nutrients to the earth and keep our environmental 'tidy'. Even things like hair or skin cells would quickly accumulate if bacteria did not quickly break them back down to their basic components.
Therefore, preventing the cold I think is an insurmountable task. As far as CURING the cold once you have it, I think we will not really progress much further either. When a person becomes infected, the bacteria invade cells and the result is our 'sick' feeling. By the time we 'feel sick' the bacteria has already made its invasion and won (at least temporarily). Our body's resistance to the invasion involves production of immune cells to fight the organism or virus. Time is required for this battle to be waged (and won).
Naturally, much of medicine is designed to aid in this battle (antibiotics) or to at least make us feel better while the battle wages on... like aspirin, sinus medicine, and other drugs which try to counteract some of the histaminic reactions produced by our bodies in response to the invasion.
What I do see sometime in the future is perhaps production of types of immunization to protect us from some of the more hazardous bacteria. I do think, with the common cold, however, that we have to at least try to grin and bear it.

Ric
Thanks for using NEWTON!


Most common colds are caused by viruses. We would like to make a vaccine that would protect us against theses viruses, like the vaccine that protects us from polioviruses. Unfortunately, cold viruses change their "coat" proteins rather quickly, which means that our immune systems trained to find one type of coat will not find the "new" kind of coat...so the c vaccines are not particularly effective.

Steve J Triezenberg



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