Having an X-ray to look at broken bones is one thing, but what if doctors could use cameras to spot microbes inside our bodies, and diagnose diseases by looking at photographs? Hinting at a future where this might be possible, scientists have recently developed a technique to detect the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, a major cause of stomach ulcers, using fluorescence. Specific probes bind to the bacteria, causing them to glow green, as shown here in a sample from an infected patient’s stomach lining (green dots in the channel). The probes work at body temperature and can withstand stomach acids, so the researchers believe their method could be adapted for use in live patients; bacteria would then be visualised by inserting a minute camera into the stomach. This means ulcers could be observed directly, without having to wait for tissue samples to be analysed, allowing speedier diagnosis and early treatment.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
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.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.