SCIENTISTS could be one step closer to curing the common cold, polio and hand, foot and mouth disease thanks to equipment in Didcot.

Diamond Light Source, at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, is the nation’s only synchrotron – a giant microscope with a powerful light which allows scientists to see the structure of viruses in great detail.

Because of this, researchers from across the world have been able to develop a molecule that can inhibit the harmful family of viruses that cause several infectious diseases.

The drug molecule will sit inside the virus, locking it rigid and preventing it breaking open and releasing the disease. This would disable the mechanism which allows the infection to take hold and be transmitted from person to person.

Early studies suggest that the treatment would stop the viruses and render them ineffective. Director of the Division of Structural Biology, Prof Dave Stuart explained: “By targeting a structural feature also found in related viruses, it should be possible to devise similar therapeutics to target them.”

Despite the exciting development, Prof Stuart added: “We have a long way to go.

“These things take a long time and things can go wrong, but these first tests are very promising.”