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Cold coddles colds

Cooler temperatures in places like your nose prevent host cells from fighting back

4:14pm, January 5, 2015
computer simulation of rhinovirus outer coat

COLD SUITS COLDS  Rhinoviruses (a computer simulation of the outer coat shown) reproduce better in the nasal passages than in the lungs, partly because cooler temperatures in the nose prevent cells lining the airways from mounting a full defense.

Chilly winter weather alone may not cause colds, but the cold weather may numb the body’s ability to fight off cold viruses, a new study suggests.

Rhinovirus, also known as the common cold virus, has long been known to grow better in the nasal passages than in the lungs, but the reason wasn’t entirely clear. Now, Ellen Foxman of Yale University and colleagues find that the virus-fighting signals given off by infected host cells don’t raise as much of an alarm at 33° Celsius, the temperature in the nose, as they do at the core body temperature of 37° C.

Using a version of rhinovirus adapted to grow in mouse cells, Foxman and colleagues discovered that infected mouse airway cells produced less interferon — one of the body’s antiviral defense molecules —  when grown at nose temperature than they do when grown at the lungs’ core body temperature. A molecule called the RIG-I-like

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