17 October 2013
A single droplet of water containing the flu virus is enough to kill a person because of this microbe’s ability to spread and multiply within the body. The virus is surrounded by a coat made up of proteins that resemble one of our own and this deception allows it to be transported across our cells’ outer layer. Once inside, it hijacks the cell’s control centre (stained blue) to make thousands of copies of itself, then rearranges the cell’s infrastructure (green/yellow) to allow the newly formed viral particles move to the surface (red dots). When ready, the particles bud off into the surrounding tissue complete with their delusory protein coat, leaving the host cell depleted of resources. More cells become infected as the process repeats, until our avenging immune system kicks back. A better understanding of viral ‘budding’ will aid the quest for improved medicines and vaccines.
Written by Julie Webb
Image by Jeremy Rossman, an entrant in the Society of Biology 2012 Photography competition
Part of the Society of Biology’s ‘Biology Week’
Image provided by the Society of Biology
Research published in Journal of Virology 84(10): 5078-5088