DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Parents know just how miserable it can be when their children are sick with a cold. But researchers at Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta are working on a new vaccine that could prevent colds.
“This one here hasn’t been very sick, but other one, oh, she’s very fussy, lazy, don’t want to do nothing,” said Cheryl McCrary, a mother of two children.
“I have to make sure she’s taking her proper fluids, nurse her back to care and such. It’s a big inconvenience,” said Adam McKenzie, a father of a 3-year-old girl.
As a father of two children, Emory University Associate Professor Martin Moore knows first-hand how inconvenient the coughing, sneezing and runny nose that are symptoms of the common cold can be. When his kids caught colds, their pediatrician would say it’s just a virus, keep them home.
“But then you can’t take them back to daycare. So now you’re stuck out of work. And I thought, you know, if we can manipulate these viruses in the lab, why can’t we come up with something for the common cold?” said Moore.
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For some children and older adults with weakened immune systems, a cold can even lead to death.
“For children with asthma it can be a very big deal because common cold viruses can trigger major exacerbations of asthma and COPD in adults,” said Moore.
The problem is there are 160 different types of the common cold.
“You just constantly get these colds, especially little kids can have up to ten colds a year and it’s because of this kind of whack-a-mole with these different strains,” said Moore.
Research happening in an Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta lab takes 50 strains of the common cold and puts it into one shot to make a vaccine.
“We tested the 50-strain mix in monkeys and that’s where we saw the antibodies in 49 out of 50. The monkeys responded very well to the vaccine. We were just amazed. We were just jumping up and down,” said Moore.
Moore said rather than collect mucus with cold viruses, researchers grow and create their own viruses in the lab for the vaccine.
“That’s kind of our bread and butter technique is to make viruses from synthetic DNA,” said Moore.
The next steps are testing to see if the vaccine works in people and making enough of it.
“The problem and the real challenge for us going forward would be how to manufacture such a complex vaccine at a large scale and that’s what we’re working on now,” said Moore.
He said it likely would be given as a shot like the flu vaccine. Moore said the cold vaccine could help prevent billions of dollars in lost productivity.
“If we were successful, it could dramatically improve overall health and reduce infections. Common cold is the most common infectious disease in people,” said Moore.
Parents said they like the idea of a vaccine that can keep their kids from getting colds.
“As long as it’s safe and approved then definitely. I mean I wouldn’t be against or opposed to giving it a try,” said McKenzie.
Moore told us it will be at least a year before researchers can start testing the cold vaccine in humans. He has taken a leave of absence from Emory University to work full-time as CEO of a company that is working to mass produce the vaccine.
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