An alarming video showing how the coronavirus attacks cells has gone viral — in more ways than one. The microscopic video, produced by scientists Sophie-Marie Aicher and Delphine Planas, recently won an honorable mention in the 2021 Nikon Small World in Motion Competition.
The video and a corresponding story about it were then shared on the New York Times’ social media channels where the piece has garnered many reshares and comments from followers. “Chilling,” one Twitter follower simply wrote.
We’ve embedded the 23-second clip below so you can take a look at this incredible footage. It shows a microscopic view of “SARS-CoV-2 infection triggering cell fusion and cell death (red) in bat (Myotis myotis) brain cells,” according to the Nikon competition’s website.
The video was filmed over a 48-hour period with an image captured every 10 minutes to create the footage you see below, according to the New York Times. The coronavirus is depicted as the red spots in the clip which surround and then infiltrate the bat’s brain cells, which are the gray, blobby areas.
“After they are infected, the bat’s cells begin to fuse with neighboring cells,” NY Times Science reporter Andrew Jacobs wrote. “At some point, the entire mass bursts, resulting in the death of the cells.”
This video of the coronavirus infecting bats differs from how the virus attacks human cells in one significant way: the bats don’t get sick.
Aicher and Planas are virologists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. To capture the microscopic video, they employed fluorescence imaging, which uses high intensity light to stimulate fluorescent molecules in the sample.
They also used “phase contrast microscopy,” which is “an optical technique that exploits changes in refractive index to produce high-contrast images of transparent specimens,” according to the Nikon competition’s website. To get up close to the scene, they zoomed in with 20x of objective lens magnification.