Each year, people in the United States suffer one billion colds. While most of us spend our time trying to avoid getting bitten by the bug, science writer Jennifer Ackerman intentionally got herself sick when she participated in a clinical trial at the University of Virginia. She chronicles the experience in her book, "Ah-Choo! The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold."
Ackerman was infected with a virus called T-39 as part of a double-blind study on a nasal spray. An ABC News story shares her experiences as a study participant and includes excerpts from her book, including this passage on the virus' sneak attack on the body:
There, in the soft tissue of the adenoids (aptly described as 'crypts'), the tiny invaders approach body cells a thousand times their size, like pirates in a small speedboat approaching an oil tanker. They get onboard by wily means, pretending to be something they're not. (Coast Guard? Tourists?) Cold viruses have evolved a specialized device for docking on a target host cell: little canyonlike grooves on their surface that fit perfectly with specialized receptors on the surface of your body cells (called ICAM-1 receptors). The fit is tight, like lock and key.
Once the virus particles are docked, the sedition begins. They fool a body cell into thinking they're something useful, so the cell readily takes them in. And once they're onboard, like pirates, they take over the controls.
Photo by mcfarlandmo