We all hopefully know that bacterial infections are bad news. However do we know how an infection spreads in real time and exactly how/when our immune system deals with it?
So far scientist have been quite ignorant in terms of how a disease spreads. We know ‘technically’ what happens, but we don’t really know how infection truly progresses. This poses some potentially serious limitations to our understanding of infection. It’s probably part of the reason why we have not produced a completely new antibiotic in around 40 years.
It appears that for so long science and medicine has been operating by the flicker of candlelight rather than the spotlight required to stay ahead of the game. Now a recent discovery from Imperial College London could change this.
Imperial college have developed a 3-D in vivo imaging system that allows the user to follow an infection in real time. This means we can now see where an infection starts, what area it will localise to, where it will progress to and how the bodies immune system will deal with it.
Watch the video here:
The video shows the course of infection of an E.coli like mouse pathogen Citrobacter rodentium over a period of 11 days.
Here is how it works.
- First researchers genetically modified C. rodentium to produce light.
- These bacterium were then used to infect a mouse
- This infected mouse was then put into a scanner and the light emitted from the mouse was detected and measured by a scanner
- These measurements were used to build a map of the exact location of the bacteria in different parts of the body
- The lighter the area is, the more bacteria there are. Less light means that the bacteria are being killed off.
- These scans are repeated day after day to build up a full picture of infection
The great thing about this imaging technique is that we can really get a handle on the bigger picture of infection. What infection looks like, how it behaves and how are immune system deals with it. These are the big questions that we have so far been missing answers to.
Another big question, and issue, is how are we going to deal with ever increasing problem of antibiotic resistance? Well this new technology goes some way to answering this question. Now we can visualise infection, we can also monitor it and see how different vaccines and antibiotics work in living animals. That is something that we have never been able to do before. By seeing where vaccines and antibiotics act and how different treatments have different affects, we can now screen for the most promising options.
Game changer?! You tell me!
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