Researchers in the US have produced startling images that show the novel coronavirus coating infected human tissue.
The scientists from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine used high-powered magnification to make the images, which illustrate the density of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on infected cells.
SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.
In the images released by the university, virions, or the complete form of a virus outside of a host cell, are seen on an infected bronchial epithelial cell, which itself produced the virus after being infected. Epithelial cells cover body surfaces and are a barrier and defense against viruses. Bronchial tubes allow air in and out of the lungs.
The cell in the images has cilia, which are hair-like strands on respiratory epithelial cells that move mucus, and contagions, away from the lungs.
The colorized images depict the virus particles as red, the cilia blue and mucus yellow.
The first image is one micrometer across, and the second is 100 nanometers wide.
The researchers, led by Prof. Camille Ehre, in a laboratory, infected epithelial cell cultures with the virus, then made the images 96 hours later using scanning electron microscopy.
The images depict the alarmingly high amount of viruses produced by human cells in the respiratory system. The high viral load contributes to the spread of COVID-19 within an individual’s body and to other people.
The images were published earlier this month in The New England Journal of Medicine.