Image of the Week

Now in pastels – white blood cells! Pictured in the grey color below,  a white blood cell is seen here engulfing  Aspergillus fumigatus spores. A. fumigatus is a fungus is readily found in soil, which can cause severe lung infections in the immunocompromised.

white blood cells

Via The Scientist (Image credit: Priyanka Narang, Manfred Rohde, and Matthias Gunzer, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, PLoS Pathogens)

Image of the Week

West Nile virus (the mosquito/tickborne encephalitic virus) has been in the news a lot recently (albeit in a much quieter way than it’s flashier cousins) – last year alone there were 5,674 confirmed cases of the virus, the highest since 2003. What is less commonly known is that West Nile virus (WNV) was only introduced into the US in 1999. Pictured below are three maps illustrating the virus’ incredible (and alarmingly rapid) spread across the country.

(all maps courtesy of the CDC)


Introduced in New York State, notice that by the end of 1999 all human cases of WNV were limited to the state of New York.

First introduced in NY, here we have the 1999 map of all cases of WNV in the US.
First introduced in NY, here we have the 1999 map of all cases of WNV in the US.


By 2001, the virus had spread to nearly 30 states, with human cases in 10 states.

WNV cases in 2001
WNV cases in 2001 – the disease exists in humans across the North East and Southern states.


By 2003, the virus was present in humans in 45 of the 48 contiguous states, with just Oregon and Washington remaining  WNV-free.

WNV cases in 2003
WNV cases in 2003

Today, cases of West Nile Virus have occured in all 48 contiguous states, with the numbers of cases often continuing to grow. The moral of the story? Viruses are very resilient. In order to so effectively and quickly spread across the country, the virus had to survive several brutal winters (known as “overwintering”) – remember, this is virus originating in the significantly warmer climates of the African continent.  We were very lucky that while WNV has the capacity to be severely pathogenic (encephalitis is no joke), 80% of those infected are asymptomatic. What if it had been Rift Valley Fever instead?

Image of the Week

Today’s Image of the Week: Cynobacteria!

Via “Microbiology and Immunology”

“Abstract art or fossilized stromatolite? Can’t it be both?

This image of the accumulations of cyanobacteria on a substrate at 12.5x magnification was taken by Douglas Moore of University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and was awarded an honorable mention in Nikon’s Small World 2012 Photomicrography Competition.”

Image of the Week: Chemical Weapons in WWI

Image of the Week: Chemical weapons in WWI

While we attempt to figure out who is using what in Syria, let’s stop and look at this very frightening (and quotidian) image of chemical weapons use in WWI. The below picture, showing the Russian trenches as a German gas attacks drifts in, was printed in the New York Times in 1919.

(image courtesy of the Library of Congress)