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David Tyrrell

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 16 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1451

Virologist who unlocked many of the secrets of the common cold

David Tyrrell ran the Medical Research Council common cold unit for most of its existence. Though he never found a cure, he discovered almost everything we know about cold viruses and was made a fellow of the Royal Society. At the start of his research it was assumed that there was a single cold virus, which could, perhaps, be prevented or cured. By the end, it was known that there were around 200, which was why it is so difficult. He was the first to identify most of them. He discovered most of the secrets of the common cold and showed that none of the popular myths about prevention or cure were of any use.

The unit was located at Harvard Hospital, near Salisbury. The prefabricated wooden buildings, made in the United States, were a wartime gift from Harvard University and the American Red Cross in 1940. The unit was intended as a 125 bed infectious diseases hospital to control the epidemics that were expected to result from the second world war, and the …

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