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Ebola virus

David S Goodsell, RCSB Protein Data Bank

Download this image from Wellcome Collection.

Inside an Ebola virus particle. The virus is surrounded by a membrane (pink/purple) stolen from an infected cell. This is studded with proteins from the virus (turquoise) which extend outwards and look like trees rooted in the membrane. These proteins attach to the cells that the virus infects. A layer of proteins (blue) supports the membrane on the inside. Genetic information (RNA; yellow) is stored in a cylinder (nucleocapsid; green) in the centre of the virus.

The Ebola virus, which first appeared in Africa in the mid-1970s, can cause serious illness and is often fatal. It can spread between people through direct contact with infected blood and other body fluids. Good hygiene, such as handwashing, is one important way to minimise the virus’s spread.

This virus is approximately 100 nanometres (0.0001 mm) wide, which is 200 times smaller than many of the cells that the Ebola virus infects.

Imaging technique: watercolour and ink illustration

To create a scientifically accurate painting of the molecular landscape inside a virus, David starts by extensively researching the scientific literature. Once he has information about all the different molecules, how big they are and how they interact with each other, he sketches and paints them methodically, with each structure finally outlined in pen. For clarity, large molecules inside the virus are depicted here but not water and small molecules.

Illustrating Ebola | David S Goodsell. Filmed by Chadwick Trentham, edited by Gary Tobyn and produced by Chris Chapman.

Location where image was created

San Diego, California, USA

Why was this image chosen as the overall winner?

“This is a stunning illustration of a deadly pathogen – a cross-section through an Ebola virus particle. The judges felt that this watercolour and ink image elegantly displayed the biological structure of a virus which has caused such devastation in West Africa.”

Fergus Walsh, BBC Medical Correspondent

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