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Lippin Papers > A new research model for the common cold



Philadelphia Medicine

Volume 87 - June 1991.

To the Editor:
Re: A new research model for the common cold

April 10,1991

The lack of a “cure for the common cold” has become almost a humorous metaphor for the shortcomings of western medicine’s high technology approach to medical research.

It also represents the inability of a sometimes inflexible and uncreative research community to shift research activities away from disease models (in this case the infectious disease model) that obviously produce limited results in given situations.

Because of the enormous human and economic consequences of the common cold, however, it is time for more creative scientists to challenge the infectious disease model and the role of the more than one hundred rhinoviruses that allegedly are the “cause” of the common cold. Although the presence of these viruses is indisputable. I for one question their causative role.

As an occupational physician for over 15 years who has tracked upper respiratory “infections” against work and family stress cycles, I believe that, anecdotally, I can report a direct correlation between periods of intense stress and the onset of a cold. Most often a cold manifests itself after, rather than during, a long period of stress, on a weekend, a holiday, or a vacation.

in my opinion, many of the symptoms of these colds are what I refer to as “parasympathetic breakthrough or payback” phenomena. Symptoms in-dude but are not limited to increased mucus, sweat, and tear production; generalized muscle aches; nausea; diarrhea; and others.

This phenomenon is not unlike narcotic withdrawal, but the “narcotics” are the well-known stress hormones adrenalin and noradrenalin that exist in high levels and suppress the cold symptoms during intense periods of stress.

In patients whom I have counseled regarding these intense work (stress) rest cycles, I have witnessed improvement in the intensity and duration of “colds.”

In 1959 Dr. Thomas C. Ward, an eminent virus researcher of Notre Dame University, and others predicted a cure for the common cold based on a vaccine against rhinoviruses. In over 30 years, after great expense and energy pursuing the infectious disease hypothesis, little if any progress has been made.

Isn’t it time some creative researchers recognize the limitations of this infectious disease model as applied to colds and explore other areas of research more likely to yield success? I would propose that exploring what I have referred to above as “parasympathetic breakthrough or payback” to be one such fruitful area of research endeavors.

R. A. Lippin, MD.

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