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Horror Film
12 September 2012

Horror Film

Sticky, slimy and designed to invade our body, biofilms are protective coatings produced by many types of bacteria to resist antibiotics and our natural defences. They are able to grow into large colonies that stick to tissue and gum up internal organs. This is why diseases such as cholera and certain infections of the lung and sinuses are difficult to treat unless the colony is surgically removed. Using new super-resolution microscopes to analyse these sticky plaques, scientists have created 3D reconstructions of biofilms. The false-coloured image here shows cholera bacteria (blue), which attach to a surface using a glue-like protein (green). They secrete another substance (grey) to stick to each other, and cover themselves with a protective coating (red) of protein and sugar molecules. Understanding more about the formation and structure of biofilms could pave the way for new forms of treatment that prevent or destroy them.

Written by Mick Warwicker

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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