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Why is it so hard to cure the common cold?

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On average, adults catch more than 150 colds throughout their lives. Even with similar symptoms, the cause could be different each time. Common colds are caused by at least 8 different families of virus, each of which can have its own subtypes. How can so many different viruses cause the same illness? And is a cure even possible? Explore the two main strategies we employ to fight viruses.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Director Anton Bogaty
  • Script Writer George Zaidan
  • Narrator George Zaidan
  • Sound Designer Nikola Radivojevic
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Senior Producer Alexandra Zubak
  • Associate Producer Sazia Afrin
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer George Zaidan
  • Expert Consultant Sheena Cruickshank
Additional Resources for you to Explore
The average person will have on the order of 200 colds in their lifetime, approximately 2-3 every year. The symptoms are typically mild—sore throat, runny nose, sneezing. And yet, for all their mundanity, colds put an outsize economic burden on society. In the US, colds account for around 20 million days of absence from work, 22 million days of absence from school, and 25 million doctor visits every year.

Scientists have been trying to crack the code of the cold for decades. But medical understanding of how best to treat a cold, or even how one is most likely to catch a cold, is still nebulous. Because more than 200 viruses are known to cause the symptoms attributed to the common cold, and because viruses are constantly mutating, researchers have yet to develop an effective vaccine that will eliminate this incessant ailment from our daily lives. However, new studies using the gene-editing tool CRISPR have made exciting headway in the design of an antiviral drug that could finally solve this medical mystery.   

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Director Anton Bogaty
  • Script Writer George Zaidan
  • Narrator George Zaidan
  • Sound Designer Nikola Radivojevic
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Senior Producer Alexandra Zubak
  • Associate Producer Sazia Afrin
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer George Zaidan
  • Expert Consultant Sheena Cruickshank

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