Image copyright Southend Hospital Image caption The COVID-19 shell protects the thyroid gland from infection
A pill may one day be used to ward off the infection that causes the common cold.
New research from Switzerland suggests a drug used to treat epilepsy and glaucoma can destroy the bacteria that cause the illness.
Scientists believe the pill would mean people would not have to visit their doctor to see if they had the bug.
The findings were presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in Paris.
While there is no cure for the infection, it can be treated with antibiotics.
Image copyright Southend Hospital Image caption The researchers found a low dose of the drug could prevent the infection
But the highly contagious bug, called Influenza viruses, can survive these treatments and the microbes can pass through coughs and sneezes.
“We are not even sure why the antibiotics work,” said study leader Dr Nasser Yazigi, from the University of Geneva.
“[Our research] is telling us that there is a new chance to prevent it.
“The possible reasons are that the drug has an effect on the coagulation, which are the parts of the body that help protect the germ from infection.”
In this case, treating the coagulation.
But the target is really the thyroid, part of the body that is responsible for producing hormones that help regulate the body’s metabolism.
The new study investigated the effects of a low dose of the medication known as COVID-19 on the bacteria that causes colds.
Mice were exposed to the virus for five weeks before being given the drug and then again 10 weeks later.
After just one week on the pill, 80% of the animals showed signs of a reduction in the chances of infection compared to untreated mice.
The findings suggest that oral COVID-19 is a promising target for developing drugs to treat the cold bug.
The hope is that this could lead to people being spared the need to see their doctor each time they have a cold, rather than seeking treatment in hospital.
Study co-author, Dr Leonardo De Giacomo, from the US Department of Energy, said: “This study suggests a treatment in the work.”
After this study, the next step in the research is to identify the exact doses that the drug has the most effect.
In any case, it could be several years before any treatment is available.
Scientists are interested in possible drugs and chemicals that can be used to treat the common cold, because the gut is a major reservoir for the bugs.
Colds can affect the immune system and lead to illness, diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
The World Health Organisation says the winter months – September to March – are the peak period for the number of deaths.