Learning how viruses behave could be the key to discovering new drugs and treatments against a disease such as COVID-19. To understand the behavior of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, a pair of French scientists recorded this infectious agent invading the brain cells of a bat.
In the video with microscopic images, it is possible to observe SARS-CoV-2 infecting bat brain cells within a controlled laboratory environment. At first, the infectious agent transforms the bat’s cells (myotis myotis) into “factories” of new viruses and merges them. It then causes host cell death. Everything takes place in approximately 2 days.
The video of the invasion of healthy cells by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus was produced by virologists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Sophie Marie Aicher and Delphine Planas. With the unprecedented registration, the researchers received an honorable mention in a microscopic video contest sponsored by Nikon, Nikon’s Small World 2021.
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Coronavirus invasion of a bat’s brain cells
The video follows the first 48 hours of the invasion of cells in the nervous system of a bat by the coronavirus. At the end of this period, only the infectious agent survives. To record all stages of the infection, the scientists took a photograph every 10 minutes of what was happening in the experiment. Check out the full video below:
In the video, the coronavirus is highlighted as the red spots. This virus circulates among a mass of gray bubbles, that is, the initially healthy bat brain cells. Through the images, it is possible to observe that, after being infected, the bat’s cells begin to fuse with the neighboring cells.
At some point, the entire mass explodes, which results in the animal’s cells dying. But this explosion also releases hundreds of new invaders that can continue, on a broader scale, the viral infection of the body.
Is the infection process the same for humans?
A specialist in zoonotic diseases, Aicher explains that this coronavirus behavior is the same in bats and in humans, but there is an important distinction: as far as is known, bats do not get sick with COVID-19. This happens as a result of the immune system of each species, which cannot be demonstrated in the laboratory experiment.
In the human body, the coronavirus is able to evade detection and, thus, is able to proliferate more and cause more damage. In other words, it prevents infected cells from alerting the immune system to the presence of invaders.
In this process, the main “power” of SARS-CoV-2 is to force host cells to fuse with their neighbors, which allows the coronavirus to remain undetected while it replicates. “Each time the virus needs to leave the cell, it runs the risk of being detected, so if it can go straight from one cell to another, it can work much faster,” explains Aicher.
Source: NYT and Nikon
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