Scientists have shared the first detailed images of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, showing the deadly bug multiplying in the gut.
The images were collected by an international team of researchers, led by the University of Dundee.
They were taken by an ultra-powerful electron microscope, and show virus particles in a tissue model of the human gut.
To take the images, the researchers infected human intestine cells with the virus in a laboratory, before monitoring the cells’ response.
The first set of images show the virus assembling in the human gut, while the second set shows the virus leaving the human intestinal cells.
Each of the images is more than 30-50 GBytes. For comparison, that’s 500 to 1,000 times larger than an image recorded on an iPhone!
To share the unique images with scientists around the world, the researchers built a new database, called the Image Data Resource (IDR).
Professor Jason Swedlow, who led the project, said: “We’re excited to publish these important new datasets in IDR, where they can be seen by researchers around the world, who can also scan the images and view the SARS-CoV-2 virus up close on their computer.”
“We have included annotations from the authors so anyone who reads the paper from the research teams in the Netherlands can easily see what the authors published, but also can examine other parts of the data and maybe make their own discoveries.
“This kind of sharing of data has never been more important than in our current situation where we urgently need to work together around the world to find out more about this disease and ultimately be able to treat or control it.”
The researchers hope the images will help to explain why around one third of coronavirus patients experience gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhoea.
Dr Frances Wong, the Curator on Professor Swedlow’s IDR team said, “The images are amazing, and I hope the additional annotations our team has added increases the utility of the data for the global scientific community.”