Ever wondered how an infection actually spreads through the body?
UK scientists have used state-of-the-art scanning equipment to watch an infection spread through a mouse, then observed its immune system kick in.
The researchers from the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection at Imperial College London infected the mouse with a light-emitting stomach bacteria then put the infected mice in a scanner that detected the light.
They discovered the entire infection cycle lasted 12 days.
"I saw this and just said 'wow!'" lead researcher Professor Gadi Frankel said. "This allows us for the first time to visualise infection in 3-D in real time."
The researchers genetically modified a bacteria called Citrobacter rodentium to produce light.
When the mouse was placed in a vivo scanner, the light was picked up; and the more light that was omitted, the more bacteria there was.
In the video you can see the bacteria start in the small intestine, then move to a small pocket in the digestive tract called the cecum, which is where bacteria is usually removed from the system.
"We believe this is where the pathogen [bug] adapts to the in vivo [internal] environment of the host," the scientists said.
By day six, it had spread to the rectum and on day eight it had gone right through the large intestine.
But on day nine the body's immune system kicked in and started to fight the bacteria, working backwards from the large intestine, then the cecum.
"It is something which will revolutionise the way we study bacterial infection; this is the future," Professor Frankel said.
The researchers said the technology will help scientists develop better antibiotics and vaccines, because they will be able to observe how the vaccines change the way bacteria spreads through the body.
"We would be able to visualise how antibiotics and vaccination works in a living animal; that's something which was never done before," Professor Frankel said.
"It will give us incredibly important tools to develop better vaccines and better antibiotics, which will allow us to tackle bacterial infections in the future."