Scientists in the UK could be a step closer to finding a cure for viruses such as the common cold after pinpointing a mechanism that the body uses to fight off illnesses.

Research carried out by the Medical Research Council at Cambridge University shows that antibodies can pass into cells and fight viruses from within.

Once inside, they trigger a response led by a protein called TRIM21, which pulls the virus into a disposal system used by a cell.

It had been thought that antibodies could only tackle infections by blocking viruses outside cells.

Experts said that pills and powders to boost the immune system could be on the market within a decade, but stressed that the pathway they had discovered would not work on all viruses, according to BBC News.

Viruses are the world’s biggest killer, responsible for twice as many deaths as cancer, yet they are harder to treat.