Scientists believe they may have made a breakthrough in the search for a cure for the common cold.
Researchers say treatments could be developed based on antimicrobial peptides that occur naturally in the immune systems of humans and animals.
The Edinburgh Napier University team observed how they increase the body’s natural response to rhinovirus infection.
Rhinovirus is the main virus responsible for the common cold.
The team synthesised antimicrobial peptides found in pigs and sheep, and assessed their impact on lung cells infected with rhinovirus.
The peptides successfully attacked the virus, and could provide clues for developing novel treatments based on peptides found in nature.
Dr Peter Barlow, associate professor of immunology and infection at the university, said: “This is an exciting discovery and our next steps will be to modify the peptide to make it even better at killing this virus.
“This research is still in the early stages, but we will ultimately be looking to develop drug treatments that have the potential to cure the common cold.”
An effective treatment for the cold could help sufferers of more serious lung conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), for whom viral infections can pose a serious health risk.
Prof Barlow added: “There is no cure and no vaccine so the development of effective therapies for human rhinovirus, the main causal agent of the common cold and one of the most common causes of viral respiratory tract infections, is an urgent requirement.
“This study represents a major step towards finding a treatment.”
Earlier research by Dr Barlow had underlined the potential of antimicrobial peptides in tackling the influenza A virus.
The latest study, was funded by the Chief Scientist Office and medical research charity Tenovus Scotland.