It’s not your typical Ebola image. Most pictures show one virus particle, or virion, looking like a piece of string with loops at one end. But such pictures don’t tell you how it wreaks havoc. Here, hundreds of virions (blue) are bursting out of an infected cell (yellow), which will soon shrivel and die while the virions go on to infect more cells. Ebola targets cells of the immune system. Once inside it hijacks machinery ordinarily used to copy DNA and, like all viruses, it uses this machinery to make copies of itself. These copies eventually burst from the cells, continuing the cycle. Infected cells also release proteins that cause small blood clots and damage blood vessels, making them leak; blood ultimately flows out of the ears, nose and other orifices. Patients also vomit, and all of these fluids contain high numbers of virions, making Ebola highly contagious.
Written by Deborah Oakley
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. 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.