Scientists have developed a new class of molecules that target our cells' ticketing and entry system to ensure disease-causing pathogens do not gain access.
The molecules, named pitstops, could lead to new therapeutic approaches to prevent the spread of viral and bacterial infections.
The study, which is published today in the journal Cell, is the result of collaboration between researchers in Australia and Germany.
Senior author Professor Adam McCluskey and his team at The University of Newcastle designed the pitstops, which successfully block a process called clathrin-mediated endocytosis.
Endocytosis is a process that permits signalling molecules, such as neurotransmitters, hormones and nutrients, to pass through the cell membrane and into the cell.
However, the same process is hijacked by numerous bacteria and viruses that include HIV, hepatitis C and Ebola.
And, once inside the cell, viruses take control of its machinery so that they can replicate and spread infection.