The coughs and sneezes that spread diseases have many causes. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) (pictured, highly magnified and falsely coloured) is a common one. For most, symptoms are no worse than a common cold, but for the very young they can be severe and even fatal. Pain and obstruction from inflamed lung tissue can be alleviated but without a vaccine RSV continues to be a global health threat. The work of Royal Society Fellow Brigitte Askonas – who died last week, aged 89 – provided major insights into how we fight viruses, including RSV. Her discovery that cytotoxic T-cells – white blood cells that destroy our infected and damaged cells – could singly recognise different forms a virus can take, continues to inform the design of vaccines. Getting T-cells involved is likely to help virus vaccine strategies succeed.
Written by Lindsey Goff
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.