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L.Srikumar Pai
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In what may soon pave the way for a cure for common cold, scientists claim to have identified a vital mechanism which the body uses to fight off viruses.

The breakthrough by a team at a Medical Research Council laboratory at Cambridge University in Britain, centres on boosting the body's natural defences against viruses, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

Viruses need to infect cells, such as those in the nose, lungs and stomach, to live and breed. It had been thought that antibodies tackled viruses by attacking them outside the cells and stopping them getting inside.

But, the latest research shows that the antibodies can also enter cells, making their way in at the same time as the virus. Once inside, the antibody triggers a chain of reactions which h leads to a protein called TRIM21 ejecting the virus from the cell, say the scientists.

TRIM21 usually springs to life very quickly, before the virus has harmed the cell. And, the scientists have used the results to create drugs that raise levels of TRIM21.

In experiments in the lab, the team stopped viruses similar to those behind the winter vomiting bug and many colds from causing infections.

Dr Leo James, the study's lead author, was quoted as saying, "Doctors have plenty of antibiotics to fight bacterial infections but few anti-viral drugs. Although these are early days, and we don't yet know whether all viruses are cleared by this mechanism, we are excited that our discoveries may open multiple avenues for developing new antiviral drugs."

While the research is at an early stage, the new anti -viral drugs could be tested on humans in two to three years, say the scientists.

They would have to be given to thousands to prove they are safe and effective, so it will be at least a decade before they come on the market. The common cold treatment may come as a powder that is sniffed, while norovirus drug in pill form.

Dr James said: "Something like the common cold has a big impact on the community. People go to their GP with a cold or other viral infection and there is nothing they can be given. The common cold and norovirus are perhaps not the biggest killers but most people are likely to be affected."

An expert, Sir Greg Winter, of the Medical Research Council, hailed the research, saying, "This research is not only a leap in our understanding of how and where antibodies work, but more generally in our understanding of immunity and infection."




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