Carnegie Mellon University

About the CCP

The Common Cold Project began in 2011 with the aim of creating, documenting, and archiving a database that combines final research data from 5 prospective viral-challenge studies that were conducted over the preceding 25 years: the British Cold Study (BCS); the three Pittsburgh Cold Studies (PCS1, PCS2, and PCS3); and the Pittsburgh Mind-Body Center Cold Study (PMBC).  These unique studies assessed predictor (and hypothesized mediating) variables in healthy adults aged 18 to 55 years, experimentally exposed them to a virus that causes the common cold, and then monitored them for development of infection and signs and symptoms of illness.  Standard control variables (covariates) included age, sex, socioeconomic status (SES), race/ethnicity, body mass index (BMI), season of the year, and specific antibody (Ab) titer to the challenge virus (specific immunity).

Each of the 5 studies comprising the Common Cold Project was designed to address a specific set of hypotheses.  However, many common variables were collected across 2 or more studies.  Because the primary outcome of each of the 5 studies was whether participants developed a common cold, all 5 studies include measures of upper respiratory infectious illness (URI) (e.g., infection, signs and symptoms of a cold, local [nasal mucosa] release of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines).  However, they also include a broad assortment of health-related outcomes not specific to URI such as…

•    anthropomorphic measures, such as body mass index and waist circumference;
•    complete blood cell counts and differentials;
•    measures of functional immunity;
•    both self-reported and objectively assessed health behaviors (smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, diet, and sleep);
•    measures of functional physiology across several biological systems—pulmonary function, resting cardiovascular function, endocrine, and metabolic activity; and
•    self-reported assessments of physical and psychological health and well-being.

In addition to the above health-related measures, the 5 studies collected, by questionnaire, data on an extensive range of demographic, health behavior, psychological and social variables including…

•    adult SES and subjective social standing;
•    childhood SES;
•    major stressful life events and perceived stress;
•    personality;
•    psychological expectations and beliefs;
•    social relationships; and
•    state and trait affect.

Three of the studies also include daily evening interviews (conducted for 7 or 14 days before exposure to a virus and assessing daily social interactions, mood, health behaviors, and physical symptoms; and daily diaries collected during the quarantine period (1 day before and 5-6 days after viral exposure), including cold-specific and nonspecific symptoms, mood, and health behaviors.

The merging and online archiving of these data provide researchers from the broader scientific community with the opportunity to replicate their analyses across two or more of the studies, as well as to combine data  from any or all of the 5 studies.  Individual study sample sizes range from 193 to 399 participants, with the combined dataset being comprised of data from approximately 1,400 participants.  Thus, the merged dataset provides adequate power for detection of small effects and for conducting tests of mediation and moderation.