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Cure for the Common Cold? Silver Bullet Takes a Shot

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(CBS) Silver bullets may work against werewolves, but what about the common cold?

A Belgian scientist says "friendly" bacteria studded with microscopic particles of silver could be used to prevent colds and influenza by destroying the viruses that cause them, according to the Daily Mail.

He says the silvery germs have already proven effective against norovirus, a common cause of vomiting and stomach upset.

The silver "nanoparticles" - each 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair - work by clumping around viruses, the paper reported.

"There are concerns about using such small particles of silver in the human body and what harm it might cause to human health, so we have attached the silver nanoparticles to the surface of a bacterium," Professor Willy Verstraete, a microbiologist from the University of Ghent in Belgium, told the newspaper. "It means the silver particles remain small, but they are not free to roam around the body."

Dr. Verstraete, who spoke about his research at a recent scientific meeting in London, said the bacteria could be incorporated into water filters, chopping boards, and other consumer products to prevent the spread of infectious viruses, as well as into nasal sprays.

Sounds exciting. But will it really work?

It's to soon to tell, Dr. Kathryn Edwards, director of the vaccine research program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., tells CBS News. "This is interesting research, and it certainly bears further study.," she says. "But we would need to know how much reduction of the viruses there is, and you would want to make sure there are no downsides," such as nasal irritation or wheezing.

Dr. Edwards said that several years ago a flu vaccine containing a toxin derived from cholera wound up causing transient facial paralysis.

Be wary of silver? Yes, says Dr. Edwards.

Just like werewolves.

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