The BBC reports that for the first time, scientists have been able to watch the an infection develop in real time, inside an animal. The best part? They used a special glowing bacteria and measured the rays of light escaping from the animal’s body:
The researchers used a genetically modified version of a mouse bug, Citrobacter rodentium, which produces light.
Dr James Collins, who works in Prof Frankel’s lab, then puts the infected mice inside the scanner.
“It is a dark box which keeps the animals warm and blocks any other light from coming in. It has a camera at the top so we can very sensitively measure any light that’s emitted through the mouse by the bacteria.”
He then uses the measurements to build up a map of the exact location of the bacteria in different parts of the body. The amount of light escaping shows how many bacteria there are. More light means more bacteria and if the light starts to go out then that means the bacteria are being killed off.
Repeating these scans, with the same mouse, day after day, builds a complete picture of an infection.
The equipment can also be configured to look in exquisite detail at the immune system. Dr Collins said: “We can image where the bacteria are and where and which types of immune cells have been recruited to that area.”