Dark, damp and undulating; three words that accurately describe the inside of your intestines. Not particularly appealing to most but very attractive to a whipworm. Over half a billion people are infected with whipworms; parasites, a few centimetres long, that set up home in our intestines and wreak havoc on our digestive systems. Current drug treatments are not very effective and the reasons why are unclear. Researchers now investigate whether whipworm biology has something to do with it, specifically a curious structure called the bacillary band (pictured). In a lab setting whipworms were found to need glucose to survive. Using a fluorescent glucose analogue (green) the team discovered that the bacillary band can absorb glucose through its pores (red circles). More experiments are on the cards to determine if this structure could also be involved in the absorption – and so effectiveness – of drugs targeting whipworms.
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.