Researchers have completed a “family tree” for the common cold, paving the way for an eventual cure to one of mankind’s most stubborn ailments, the New York Times reports. Scientists mapped the genomes of the 99 variations of rhinovirus, which causes most colds, and have cataloged the weaknesses of specific strains. The rhinovirus’s wide genetic variation has long stymied efforts to find a cure.
But so has the disease’s mild symptoms, the Times notes, because pharmaceutical firms know the public will be unwilling to pay for a high-priced remedy when bed rest and chicken soup will do. Big pharma may be interested in the rhinovirus genome project for another reason: The virus also causes half of all asthma attacks, and there may be a substantial market for antiviral agents effective at suppressing those strains.