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Cold aid nothing to sneeze at

Easy to catch. Hard to get rid of.

It’s that time of year again when the common cold invades, spreading germs, discomfort and crankiness, while somehow evading a cure or an effective treatment.

Allegheny General Hospital allergy researchers say they may have found the answer under their noses — a common allergy medicine they expect will drastically reduce the severity of cold symptoms.

The researchers found cold sufferers have elevated levels of leukotriene, a chemical successfully combated by montelukast, which is sold under the name Singulair.

Leukotriene levels are highest when symptoms are the worst, said Dr. Deborah Gentile, one of the researchers, who reported their findings in the current issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Each year, Americans suffer about one billion colds that various studies have translated to 45 million days of restricted activity and 22 million days out of school, according to Allegheny General.

Adults average two to four colds each year, while children get hit six to 10 times, according to the hospital. Colds often progress to sinus and middle-ear infections and worsen asthma. Cold season typically is from mid-September through November, Gentile said.

In the AGH study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, 66 previously healthy adults were given one of three viruses so leukotriene levels could be measured as symptoms progressed.

Gentile and her fellow researchers now are seeking 80 stuffed-up adults in the early stages of a cold to determine whether the drug will reduce symptoms.

Again, they only had to look under their own noses. The first volunteer was one of their research associates, Asha Patel, who coincidentally caught a cold as the study kicked off.

“We just opened the study yesterday and she came in to work today with a cold, so she got to be in it,” Gentile said.

Study volunteers get paid for time, travel and parking expenses, but the hospital does not release the amount. Neither doctors nor study participants know who gets the medication and who gets placebos until the study has been completed. The study is being funded by Merck & Co., the manufacturer of Singulair.

Potential volunteers should call (412) 359-6642 for more information.

Allegheny General also is participating in a worldwide study of the drug’s effects on infants hospitalized with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.


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