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Toxoplasmosis-causing parasites

Leandro Lemgruber, University of Glasgow

Download this image from Wellcome Collection.

Three parasites that can cause an infection called toxoplasmosis. You can catch these parasites (Toxoplasma gondii) by eating raw or undercooked meat or from contact with infected cat poo. They are dangerous to people with weak immune systems and to pregnant women, as a mother can pass the infection onto her unborn child. Here, DNA inside each parasite (blue/green) is surrounded by membrane (red) and protein (black).

Each parasite measures 10 micrometres (0.01 mm).

Imaging technique: super-resolution microscopy

Super-resolution microscopy is an umbrella term for different types of light microscopy which overcome conventional physical properties of light in order to achieve higher-resolution images than standard light microscopy. This image was created using a type called structured illumination microscopy.

Location where image was created

Glasgow, UK

Why did the judges choose this image?

“Super-resolution microscopy allows visualisation of molecular complexes within fixed or living cells in such detail that it can help assign both function and mechanism of action. We are seeing with light down to a level that for many years was thought impossible and these methods won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2014. Toxoplasma gondii is a very common and important pathogen with an interesting lifestyle. There is evidence that rodents infected with Toxoplasma undergo behavioural changes, which reduce predator aversion. As someone who suffered quite badly having caught Toxoplasma when I was a postdoc in Paris, I can’t say I have found myself getting too close to the big cats in London Zoo, and I tend to avoid domestic cats due to allergies. However, perhaps I am less timid than I used to be, and I sometimes worry if I am being controlled by these tiny, strangely attractive beasts.”

Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute

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