Paris, Jerusalem, Machu Pichu... humans have built some stunning cities in their time. But when it comes to aesthetic colonies, these bacteria surely win the top prize. Originating from the small central circle, Trypanosoma brucei – bacteria responsible for the deadly disease called sleeping sickness – sweep outwards together like sun rays across the nutrient-rich jelly. Although individual cells they move in perfect coordination to produce long, elegant tentacles. Sticking together is essential if they want to successfully establish themselves in their host, the tsetse fly. Infection is a two-stage process, the first of which involves the parasites moving en masse through the fly's gut, just as they do in the laboratory. The action is so similar that studying it in this artificial setting may shed light as to how they come to infect a living host; an insight that may help to undermine their beautiful yet deadly colonies.
Written by Jan Piotrowski
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.