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Researchers have solved the first step in treating the common cold, by mapping its entire genome, or genetic map, teams from the University of Maryland and the University of Wisconsin-Madison reported Thursday.

"We have the pieces all in place. They can't go in any other way. Now we have to understand what the pictures are telling us," said Dr. Stephen B. Liggett, professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of its Cardiopulmonary Genomics Program.

The research was published in the online edition of the journal Science on Thursday afternoon.

Technically known as the human rhinovirus infection, the common cold is responsible for half of all asthma attacks and is a factor in bronchitis, sinusitis, middle-ear infections and pneumonia. The coughs, sneezes and sniffles of colds impose a major health care burden in the United States -- including visits to health care providers, cost of over-the-counter drugs for symptom relief, often-inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions and missed work days -- with direct and indirect costs of about $60 billion annually. How mapping the cold genome may lead to a cure

"We generally think of colds as a nuisance, but they can be debilitating in the very young and in older individuals and can trigger asthma attacks at any age," Liggett said. "Also, recent studies indicate that early...infection in children can program their immune system to develop asthma by adolescence." Read full article »

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