A "flu trap" that captures viruses could help prevent the spread of infection, British scientists say.
Researchers at the University of Manchester have developed a fabric coating for masks and air filters that isolates the viral particles responsible for influenza.
The technology mimics carbohydrate structures on the surfaces of cells lining respiratory airways and the oesophagus, or food pipe.
Paul Hope, director of the biotec company Virustatic that is seeking to commercialise the idea, said: "It's a whole new preventative approach to disease and if implemented could be transformative.
"We're now at the stage where we're looking for strategic partners to take this technology forwards in terms of developing new products."
The team found a way to anchor sugary glycoproteins first to carbon cloth and then cheaper materials such as cotton.
The molecules were able to capture and trap more than 99 per cent of the flu viruses that came into contact with them.
Dr Ian Rowles, of the University of Manchester, said: "This has been an exciting collaboration with Virustatic, and our research does indeed show that this technology can slow the spread of flu viruses.
"We hope that eventually we'll be able to tackle all pathogens by using this technology. So watch this space."
The scientists aim to develop the technology further to capture other potentially deadly viruses such as those responsible for Middle East respiratory syndrome and severe acute respiratory syndrome.