Studying diseases in animals is an essential vehicle for driving forward our understanding of human illness. Ideally, we observe a human disease in an infected animal, but when that’s not possible it can also be hugely valuable to delve into the details of how ailments specific to a species take hold, and then apply these findings to human conditions. Canine distemper virus is a morbillivirus that affects ferrets just like measles does humans. To investigate its mechanisms of infection and transmission, researchers pioneered a particularly pretty, new technique. They infected ferrets with three versions of the virus, identical in every way except that each glowed a different colour, all on display here in a single white blood cell. The result was a spectacular display of virus competition, revealing the subtleties of how the virus takes hold depending on how it enters the body, and which ones go on to infect neighbouring ferrets. A useful tool to ferret out the details of virus behaviour.
Written by Anthony Lewis
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.