It may seem surprising in a world where so much has been accomplished from a technological standpoint that no one has succeeded in finding a way to cure or prevent the common cold. Although Linus Pauling may have believed he’d found the answer with vitamin C, the majority of people still suffer from this affliction no matter how much vitamin C is added to their diet. Fortunately, this may be about to change.
Surprisingly, the answer to preventing the common cold may come not from a bottle of vitamin C, but from a rather ugly looking sea creature known as the sea cucumber. This sausage shaped organism with warty bumps covering its exterior is the source of a compound known as N-glycolyneuraminic acid or NGNA. Scandinavian researchers have recently discovered a way to successfully extract this compound from the sea cucumber for experimental purposes.
NGNA extracted from the sea cucumber appears to have antiviral activity which allows it to potentially prevent the common cold. Most cases of the common cold are caused by the rhinovirus, a virus that’s able to successfully attach to the nasal mucous membranes and replicate, giving rise to the symptoms we know of as the common cold. NGNA appears to have the capacity to stop the rhinovirus from attaching the mucous membranes of the nose, thus preventing the development of cold symptoms.
Interestingly, many animals are able to synthesize and produce their own NGNA giving them a natural mechanism for preventing a cold. Somewhere along the way, humans seem to have lost the ability to synthesize this important antiviral compound.
In what form will NGNA be used to prevent the common cold? The Scandinavian researchers are initially focusing on developing an antiviral nasal spray that could be used to prevent a cold during winter cold and flu season. Before this nasal spray can be marketed it would need to undergo testing in humans, so don’t expect to see this product on store shelves any time soon.
According to preliminary studies, NGNA extracted from the sea cucumber doesn’t appear to have toxic effects on normal cells although more research and testing are necessary before it can be marketed to humans to prevent the common cold.
Until this new antiviral nasal spray for preventing a cold reaches the market, the best way to reduce the risk of getting a bad case of the sniffles is to wash your hands frequently and maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep your immune system functioning at its peak. And, of course, stay away from anyone who’s sneezing and coughing.