The cure for the common cold has long been a symbolic flagship on the simplest things science has thus far failed to accomplish despite having accomplished so much elsewhere. The hit television show Star Trek even illustrated this by having the ship’s doctor illustrate that even in the future the common cold has not been cured. But have those predicting faster than light travel and teleportation technology overlooked how well medical science would do in the 21st century?
The problem with the Norovirus commonly attributed to the common cold is that so many variations exist. This has acted as a road block for scientists hoping to stop the quickly multiplying and evolving disease. But Belgian chemist Willy Verstraete from the University of Bhent says he has found a new element to the disease that may turn out to be a gold mine for researchers – or at least a silver mine.
Tiny silver studs embedded into harmless bacteria are said to bond with them and carry the material through the system, making it difficult for the disease to bond and infect people. Of course the silver is small enough to be only a few atoms big. Larger samples are affected by gravity and pass through or out of the system. In order to be effective, the particles must be as small as possible, measured in nanometers so small a microscope would have difficulty seeing them. Verstraete suggests that using the tiny silver particles in a spray solution on the mucous membranes could save people from the upcoming cold season and not a moment too soon.
But there are some difficulties the research may still have to overcome – and Verstraete is well aware of that as well. He suggests that silver particles have been associated in the past with kidney and liver damage. And before the medicine can be released to the general public these claims are expected to be examined thoroughly to see if a silver nasal spray will cause any such damage to the system.
Silver was used pre 1938 for centuries to combat disease and act as an antibiotic. The mineral’s exact disease fighting capabilities are not entirely understood, but have been demonstrated in labs as well as through medicinal folklore for years. But this has come with a few high profile drawbacks as well. Argyria is a disease where the skin of its sufferers turn blue. The libertarian candidate for congress Stan Jones of Montana was one of the most well known sufferers, and acquired his strange shiny pigmentation from the use of homemade colloidal silver as an antibiotic. Sufferers of Argyria collect the silver throughout their bodies and even the whites of their eyes.
So will this miracle cure make us more advanced in one respect than the futuristic world of Star Trek? Or will we become a silver tinted people through overuse? To quote one sufferer, “If it gets rid of this cold, I’d welcome shiny silver skin.” But maybe we should wait a bit first. Just to make sure. And before you go out to spray silver up your nose, it should be noted that silver is actually a bio-accumulative toxic metal. The silver you take today may be with you for some time. And as a result, the mineral will be studied much further before it is officially labeled a cure.