How colds cause coughs and wheezes

Cold-like infections make 'cough receptors' in the airways more sensitive, making asthmatics more prone to bouts of coughing and wheezing, reveal scientists presenting their findings at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring Conference in Dublin.

The work could lead to drugs that reduce virus-induced coughing in those suffering chronic lung diseases. Asthmatics often report bouts of coughing, wheezing and breathlessness when they have a cold and there is no current medicine that sufficiently treats this problem.

Researchers at Queen's University Belfast are investigating 'cough receptors' that line the cells of the airway and how these are affected by rhinovirus – a virus frequently responsible for the common cold. The team showed that rhinovirus infection caused an increase in the number of these cough receptors– making the airways more sensitive.

Dr Hani'ah Abdullah, who is working on the project, explained how these receptors, called transient receptor potential (TRP) receptors, work. "TRP receptors respond to chemical and physical stimuli in the environment such as pollutants in the air, a change in air temperature and some of the toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke. Once activated, these receptors cause the individual to cough and wheeze." she said.

Rhinovirus infection ups number of TRP receptors

Professor Louise Cosby and Dr Lorcan McGarvey from the Centre for Infection and Immunity, Queen's University Belfast, are jointly leading the research team of scientists and clinicians. Their group took airway cells from mild asthmatics and healthy individuals and infected them in the laboratory with rhinovirus, which is the most common virus to exacerbate symptoms of asthma.

The results showed that rhinovirus infection caused an increase in the number of TRP receptors in the airway cells and that this effect was most pronounced in the mild asthmatics. "The increase in receptor numbers makes individuals more sensitive to environmental stimuli, making them more likely to suffer from prolonged bouts of coughing," explained Dr Abdullah.

The findings of this study may lead to new drugs that reduce virus-induced cough and wheeze in asthmatics and those with other chronic lung diseases. "It's feasible that therapies could be developed that block either the sensitivity of cough receptors or their increase in number. This would keep symptoms under control and ultimately improve the lives of asthmatics," said Dr Abdullah.

(EurekAlert, March 2012)

Read more:

Wheeze and sneeze

Rhinovirus infection tied to wheezing in children

 

  

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Eskom has considered continuous load shedding at Stage 2, instead of introducing it when the power system faces a crunch. What are your thoughts?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
I'm all for it - we're going to have power cuts regardless, so we might as well have some stability to better plan our lives
45% - 4183 votes
No thanks! I prefer having periods of no load shedding and we cannot normalise this crisis
55% - 5059 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
17.93
-1.8%
Rand - Pound
19.45
-0.0%
Rand - Euro
17.37
-0.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.70
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.0%
Gold
1,643.66
0.0%
Silver
18.87
0.0%
Palladium
2,073.00
0.0%
Platinum
858.50
0.0%
Brent Crude
86.15
-5.0%
Top 40
57,110
-3.1%
All Share
63,417
-2.9%
Resource 10
56,319
-7.5%
Industrial 25
78,436
-1.2%
Financial 15
14,142
-1.6%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE