Shigella Comet : 2010

Photograph by

Volker Brinkmann

About this image

Coloured scanning electron micrograph of bacteria leaving an infected epithelial cell in the gut. Each bacterium, here coloured magenta, is about one micrometre long. The bacteria are Shigella flexneri, a cause of bacterial dysentery. When they enter epithelial cells in the gut, normally from contaminated drinking water, the bacteria form bundles with parts of the cell cytoskeleton. These bundles, known as ‘comets’, enable the bacteria to move freely as the cytoskeleton protects them from the body’s immune system. Here the bacteria are seen inside a comet bundle (green) leaving an infected host cell (yellow). This image was created in monochrome and later digitally colourised. Max-Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, Germany