Trypanosome parasites travel through their fly host by sensing the environmental pH created by their neighbours
Moving in spiralling colonies, young trypanosomes like these can cause fatal sleeping sickness – each wavy tendril is a separate parasite. They develop on a gruesome journey – hiding in mouthfuls of blood sucked into a fly’s gut, they spread through their new airborne home. Later they make a dash for the fly’s salivary glands ready to jump to a new – potentially human – host. Here researchers investigate early procyclic [a life stage] trypanosomes (highlighted in red and green), finding they travel through the fly by reacting to chemical signals produced by their neighbours. Mimicking this natural chemotaxis, these trypanosomes reach out towards unseen alkaline blobs placed on either side of the colony (middle column) but shy away from acid blobs (right). Researchers gain clues to how the parasite’s metabolism guides these acidic cues, and how they might block these vital steps in the spread of disease.
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.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.